(Above) Indigo bunting – Although some spring migrants may be a challenge to identify, the strikingly iridescent blue plumage and melodious repertoire of the male Indigo bunting make it hard to mistake for any other bird. - Photo by Lowell Washburn.
It’s time to head to the woodlands
by Lowell Washburn
For Iowa birding enthusiasts, the month of May is a time like no other -- the absolute high-water mark of the annual outdoor calendar. The reason is simple. After spending the winter months in food rich habitats in the Caribbean, Central America, and South America, millions of neotropical songbirds are making their way to northern nesting grounds.
It’s an epic migration. Many species – including some of the smallest -- will travel thousands of miles between winter and summer habitats. For the most part, human eyes will not witness the annual spectacle. For the majority of these colorful migrants, the miracle of migration will take place in inky darkness as flocks employ starry constellations, magnetic fields and other, certainly more mysterious, factors to navigate the vastness of the night sky. At the approach of dawn, wing weary travelers descend to earth where they replenish spent reserves.
During the next few weeks, dozens of songbird species will stop in Iowa for food and rest. Although many will stay to nest and rear their young in our grasslands, greenbelts, and woodlands, millions more will continue to the coniferous boreal forests and subarctic tundras of northern Canada.
But the Canadian summer is short. For northbound birdlife, there is little time for delay. Here Today, Gone Tomorrow is theTo read more of this article, please login or sign up for our E-Edition