VT Bird Report - May 28, 2021

Breeding season is underway throughout the state. Early-breeding species have already hatched chicks—so make way for ducklings. The morning chorus of song are primarily male birds announcing their claim on a territory (other males, stay out!) and advertising their suitability for mates (ladies, come over!). In areas of high human density, and lots of noise, birds have been observed to change the timing and type of songs they sing.

Grey treefrogs are also in the midst of breeding season. Their repeated trill is sometimes confused for that of a bird, though their calls peak after dusk and are less common in the mornings. Tree frogs can be found in many locations throughout the state with water and –appropriately—trees.

Doug Morin doug.morin@vermont.gov

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What to Look For in the Next Two Weeks

With breeding season in full-swing, it’s a great time to make behavioral observations. Some species have courtship displays, like American woodcock and ruby-throated hummingbird. For other species, you may be able to note individuals carrying nesting material (sticks, grass, etc) or food (often insects)—with some patience, you can locate a nest based on their repeated trips to one spot with these materials. It’s important to note, however, that bird nests are sensitive to disturbance and should only be viewed from afar.

WHIP-POOR-WILL
Whip-poor-wills prefer forested areas with some open lands nearby and are most abundant in the Champlain Valley.
Whip-poor-wills are out! These funny-looking, nocturnal birds are listed as threatened in Vermont and have undergone significant population declines. The Vermont Center for Ecostudies has been surveying for the species in the state over recent years and is putting in late nights again this spring.

If you’re in the right spot, you might be lucky enough to hear their distinctive, repeated WHIP-poor-WILL song around dusk or dawn on clear nights, particularly with at least a half-full moon. The moon level is so important for this species, they time their nesting based on hatching chicks about 10 days before a full moon – this gives the adults the longest period of bright nights to forage insects for their young in the nest.

Whip-poor-wills prefer forested areas with some open lands nearby, and seem to reach their highest densities in the Champlain Valley, particularly in Addison and Rutland Counties.

Fish and Wildlife is for the Birds

Spring is a busy time for birds, and for bird biologists: Loons landing on ponds that are too small for them to take off, birds struck by cars, osprey nesting on power lines, construction crews uncovering bird nests, territorial woodpeckers driving homeowners bonkers, and the list goes on. Fish & Wildlife Department staff and our partners have been hard at work minimizing conflicts and protecting birds in the many predicaments that seem to occur each spring.

Here are a few seasonal reminders:

  • Bird nests and baby birds, if found, should generally be left alone. Most of the birds people find are fledglings, which appear helpless, but are in fact just fine and merely need space. The parents will be nearby waiting for humans to leave. Here’s a detailed article from the Audubon Society. If you require a rehabilitator, licensed rehabilitators may be found on Vermont Fish and Wildlife’s website.
  • Keep your cats indoors. Domestic cats kill more birds than buildings, cars, wind turbines, industrial facilities, and all other direct human causes combined. Over the next few weeks birds will be particularly vulnerable, with young that cannot fly and adults that are attending to nests.
  • Seed and suet bird feeders should be taken down for the season, so bears are not lured closer to homes.
  • Hummingbird feeders, if used, should be cleaned and sanitized regularly to prevent disease transmission.

Upcoming Events

Do you have an event you would like posted here? Content you would like covered? A question answered?
Contact Doug at doug.morin@vermont.gov, with the subject line “Birding Report.”

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image credit:"BI120502_060-Whip-poor-will" by lgooch is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

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The mission of the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department is the conservation of all species of fish, wildlife, and plants and their habitats for the people of Vermont.