Spring migration in Georgia ‘explodes’ in April


You could say that the spring migration season in Georgia kicked off in early February, when purple martins started arriving from winter homes as far south as Peru for spring nesting.

In March, migration picked up when other Neotropical songbirds began trickling in — Louisiana waterthrushes, Northern parula warblers, blue-gray gnatcatchers, white-eyed vireos and others. The plaintive calls of whip-poor-wills could be heard in the state by late March, and everybody’s favorite, the ruby-throated hummingbird, started coming in.

But now it’s April, when spring migration explodes. It is the most exciting time of year for bird lovers. Between now and mid-May, hundreds of thousands, even millions, of migrating songbirds will be streaming into the state from Southern climes.

Many of them will stay here, joining our year-round species — bluebirds, cardinals, chickadees, titmice and the like — to raise a new generation of babies. Others will merely pass through, lingering a few days to rest and refuel and then continuing on to nesting grounds farther north.

Making all of this even more glorious is that the arriving creatures are decked out in their bright, snazzy spring breeding plumages. Already they are engaging in spirited song: At the first sliver of morning light now, the “dawn chorus” begins with dozens of species belting out exuberant song from seemingly everywhere.

It gets only sweeter as we head deeper into April and May.

So, over the next five or six weeks, keep an eye out for — and give an ear to — the spring migrants: swallows, numerous warbler species, thrushes, flycatchers, tanagers, grosbeaks, buntings and many others.

And in anticipation of a question that I get every spring: The strikingly beautiful bird with a black hood and back and a rose-red triangle on a white breast, which may appear suddenly at your feeder in April, is a male rose-breasted grosbeak.

IN THE SKY: From David Dundee, Tellus Science Museum astronomer: The moon is in last quarter Saturday night. Bright shining Venus is in the west just after dark and sets about an hour later. Mars and Saturn rise out of the east about an hour after midnight; both will appear near the moon Saturday night. Jupiter rises in the east about an hour before midnight.

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