Birds of Spring

Spring is a time when we begin to welcome back migratory birds from southern wintering grounds. These birds arrive here to raise young at a time when nesting sites and natural food supplies are most abundant.

Coming to our region for the warm months are Rufous Hummingbirds, Turkey Vultures, Osprey, Barn, Violet-Green, and Tree Swallows, Vaux’s Swifts, Purple Finch, Western Tanagers, Swainson’s Thrushes, Brown-headed Cowbirds, and Black-headed Grosbeaks.

Spring is also a time to say “goodbye” to a number of birds that came in to feed in winter. Gone until fall are Golden-crowned and Fox Sparrows, Varied and Hermit Thrushes, Ruby-crowned Kinglets, +and Townsend’s Warblers. They to are moving north or up to higher elevations to raise young during the warmer months.


How to recognize our newly arriving guests?

*Rufous Hummingbird -males are cinnamon-colored birds whose wings produce a loud, buzzy insect sound in flight; females are green with warm color washes on the sides of their breast.

*Turkey Vultures – a large black bird that is V-shaped as it soars, uniquely rocking back and forth on the wing.

*Osprey – often mistaken for a Bald Eagle, but this bird’s white head has a broad, dark eye band.

*Swallows and Swifts  – these aerial acrobats zoom along on wing, making sudden changes in direction to catch flying insects. You can distinguish swifts from swallows by their stiff wing beats and cigar-shaped body. 

*Western Tanagers – slightly smaller than a robin, but larger than a finch, these tanagers are yellow birds with black and white wings and males have red on head

*Purple Finch – resemble House Finches with males being pink-red and females being brown-white striped but with a longer head shape and heavier bill than House Finches. Look for the distinct eyebrow within their face markings.

*Swainson’s Thrush – a round-headed medium-sized bird with olive brown back and tail, a buffy eye ring and dark spotting on its light-colored throat and breast

*Brown-headed Cowbird – a stocky black songbird with thick cone-shaped bill; male has a brown head; female is pale brown that is lighter on the throat and underparts; juveniles are streaked and often confused with a House Finch

Black-headed Grosbeaks – a chunky bird with large conical-shaped beak; males are a burnt-orange with black head, with black and white wings; females have a brown head with a white eyebrow and crown stripes and are lighter in color with brown streaking on their sides.

Spring Bird Feeding Tips:

Most songbirds’ diets are heavy on insects during spring and summer, a food that their nestlings can digest.  However, ideal insects can be scarce in urban neighborhoods especially during cold morning hours and unseasonal cold snaps.  How can you help?

Suet that is high in fat and protein is a wonderful supplement to offer insect-eating birds

and their young including: chickadees, Bushtits, nuthatches, wrens, and woodpeckers. Mealworms are readily taken by of all of these birds with live mealworms being more popular and more nutritious.  An exception to this preferred spring menu is with the finch family.  They dine strictly on seeds and feed their young pre-digested seed.

Black oil sunflower and sunflower chips offers the highest fat and protein

among the seeds they like to eat, making it an excellent nutrition source for growing baby birds