Birds in Focus- Spring Migration
by Chris Showalter

Black-throated Blue Warbler
Spring is rapidly approaching.  Redbuds are starting to bloom.  The days are getting longer.  Soon one of the most amazing events in the animal kingdom will begin in earnest…migratory birds will begin the long journey from their wintering grounds in the south to the breeding grounds in the north. In late February and early March, American Robins (Turdus migratorius) began to congregate in large flocks and migrate northward.  By April and May most of the neotropical migrants will have made their way into the Atlanta metro area.  Neotropical migrants are birds that migrate to North America for the breeding season and then back to Central and South America over the winter each year.

For bird watchers, or “birders” as they like to be called, spring migration is the best time of year.  Many of the most spectacular birds that pass through the Atlanta area, such as the brilliant Scarlet Tanager (Piranga olivacea) and Black-throated Blue Warbler (Dendroica caerulescens) pictured here, can only be seen in full breeding plumage during this migration period. 


Scarlet Tanager

As these birds filter into local forests and woodlots, birders frantically race around from place to place to see these amazing animals. Unfortunately, most of the neotropical migrants are here for only a brief time, using stop-over habitats like Fernbank Forest to “fuel-up” as they continue north.  But, for the time they are here, migratory birds are the ultimate symbol that the cold, dreary days of winter are over and the festive days of spring and summer are upon us.

For more information about these beautiful birds and their amazing journey, please visit the Fernbank Science Center exhibit hall where many of them are on display. 

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Images obtained from the USFWS National Image Library. They have been released to the public domain.