Statewide Birding Report as of August 25th, 2020

                                          Common Nighthawk
Look for common nighthawks this week as they zigzag across the evening sky scooping up insect prey as they head for wintering areas in South America. Photo by Jack Bartholmai.

Breeding season has come to an end for most birds, while many are getting ready for or have already begun their migrations. Backyard feeders are busy with orioles and hummingbirds fueling up for their southward flights, some having already departed northern portions of the state. Finches, nuthatches, and woodpeckers remain, however, including above-average reports of purple finch, red-breasted nuthatch, and red-headed woodpecker. Seeing blue jays or northern cardinals without any head feathers? No need for alarm as this is normal feather molt (replacement) this time of year.

Common nighthawk migration will peak this week. Numbers have really picked up in the last few days, including counts of 100+ at various sites statewide. Most notable were 600+ in Brown, 300+ in Milwaukee, and just across the border in Duluth, Minnesota, over 27,000 (!) flew by on August 24. Catch some of the action by looking up in the last few hours of light as the birds erratically wing their way south en route to wintering grounds in Argentina! Among them you may see gulls, swallows, or swifts also on the move or foraging for aerial insects.

Warbler migration is cranking on all cylinders across the north now. Large numbers of dozens of species may be seen, commonly including Nashville, Tennessee, chestnut-sided, American redstart, black-and-white, and common yellowthroat. Non-breeding species like Wilson’s, bay-breasted, and blackpoll have also arrived. Numbers and diversity are lower across the south yet but will increase with each passing cold front that brings new migrants. Also look for various flycatchers, vireos, and thrushes, the latter including a few more Swainson’s thrushes now.

Wetlands remain great places for birding. Pelicans, egrets, herons, bitterns, terns, and a few waterfowl, especially wood ducks, are being seen at many locations. Shorebird numbers have picked up where habitat is appropriate, including least, semipalmated, Baird’s, and pectoral sandpipers, both yellowlegs, semipalmated plovers, and some good finds like buff-breasted sandpipers, red knots, and American avocets at a few locations. One popular viewing site of late has been the Manitowoc lakefront.

Recent rarities include a swallow-tailed kite in Juneau county, black vulture in Door, western kingbird in Lincoln, laughing gull in Manitowoc, and red phalarope in Walworth. Expect migration to pick up over the next couple weeks, as some birds depart and many others arrive. The weekend looks fantastic for active bird migration statewide so get out and enjoy our feathered friends while they’re still here. As always, find out what others are seeing and report your sightings to www.ebird.org/wi. Good birding!

– Ryan Brady, DNR Natural Heritage Conservation Program biologist