Summer migrations dot North America in July for birders
With the 4th of July falling on a Tuesday this year, many of us are looking at a fabulous four-day weekend of birding. North America is lucky to host several summer early migrations that begin in July. Let’s see what species might be in your area as we celebrate our nation’s birthday.
Fireworks won’t be the most colorful objects in the sky this 4th of July
Southern migration in the US and Canada begins for some species as they make their way from Alaska and Canada after nesting duties are completed, making July a great month for summer bird watching.
The uncommon – and mostly regional – summer migrations are termed postbreeding dispersal or molt migrations. These are not long-haul trips for most species, they are a way of opportunistically securing resources before longer migrations to winter habitats begin.
The male Rufous Hummingbird leaves Northern breeding areas in July while the female finishes parenting duties in the North. Photo: Gardening Gaga.
Look for these South-bound birds this weekend and through July
The longer the migration route, the earlier the journey to winter habitats. The Rufous Hummingbird has the longest migration of any species – traveling from Mexico to Canada and back in a clockwise motion – and is the first to begin migration in July. These hummingbirds – mostly females and juveniles – can be seen by bird watchers for much of the summer in the Pacific Northwest and Alaska.
Notorious for being slacker dads, the male Rufous leaves in July while the female finishes parenting duties in the North. Many male Rufous Hummingbirds begin their journey down the Rocky Mountains and through the Southwest to scope out winter habitat, and to secure territory in Mexico.
Beginning in July, Western Tanagers leave their pine forest nesting areas in the West to make their way back to Mexico and Central America. Photo: Pinterest.
Songbirds fill summer skies
Numerous Western songbirds make a move for the Mexican monsoons in July where an explosion of flowers and insects make fuel plentiful. This migration makes for excellent Western bird watching:
- Lazuli and Lark Buntings travel here for food and to molt before continuing farther South to Mexico and Central America.
- Beginning in July, Western Tanagers leave their pine forest nesting areas in the West to make their way back to Mexico and Central America. Look for this early migration out West, in the Sierras and the Rockies.
- Three species of Grosbeaks are a common sight in the Southwest.
- Arctic shorebirds such as Least Sandpipers, start moving to the greater continental US in late-June.
Northern-bound birds escape the nest after fledgling
Summer migrations aren’t just on the South-bound avian train. Here are a few Northern US and Southern Canada migrations that provide excellent bird watching opportunities:
- Egret and Heron populations, like Little Blue Herons, head North away from their breeding grounds in late summer.
- Fledgling raptors like the American Bald Eagle and Red-tailed Hawks move North for the last days of summer.
- For those in Alaska, hundreds of thousands of adult male King Eiders migrate through Point Barrow after leaving nesting duties to molt in the Bering Sea and grow new feathers for winter.
Egret and Heron populations, like Little Blue Herons, head North away from their breeding grounds in late summer. Photo: Lee’s Birdwatching Adventures Plus
Bird watching resources for your holiday weekend
Jump on your local Audubon Society chapter’s website to see what migrations and associated bird watching activities are happening in your area. If you’re lucky enough to be in Mexico, Central America or other global birding hotspot, get global migration forecasts at www.birdcast.info, one of the Cornell Lab of Ornitholgy’s many online resources.
 Source: Cornell Lab of Ornithology