Birding by Season

Birding by Season Spring Barn Swallows

Barn Swallows

Bermuda’s spring migration is certainly not as dramatic as the fall migration. In the fall we can witness thousands of birds travelling south but most in rather dull non-breeding plumage or drab coloured juveniles. During the spring months, birders have to search out migrants travelling north from Central and South America to North America, but the reward is brightly coloured birds in breeding plumage: Blue Grosbeaks, Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, Indigo Buntings, Scarlet Tanagers - all as colourful as their name suggests.

Birding by Season Spring Rose breasted Grosbeak

Rose-breasted Grosbeak

The nature of weather systems and the fact that the more experienced adult birds are travelling north tends to deny us the beautifully plumaged warbler species found on the continent – but when the odd one does arrive, it provides a real treat and may even give us a burst of song too – perhaps a Prothonotary Warbler or Bay-breasted Warbler. There is always the chance of a real rarity, like a Swallow-tailed Kite.

Birding by Season Summer Longtail

White-tailed Tropicbird (Longtail)

Summer is the quietest season in terms of the variety of bird species. Resident birds like the Eastern Bluebird are busy breeding, perhaps on their second or third brood, and the visiting White-tailed Tropicbirds (Longtails) are much in evidence along the coast.

A few late migrants like the Barn Swallow and Chimney Swifts may still be passing through, while others (probably non-breeding birds) may even spend the summer here – especially the herons and egrets. There are always surprises – perhaps a Brown Pelican or Magnificent Frigatebird. Check even the smallest pond and you will find the occasional shorebird – probably a Yellowlegs – but perhaps something as graceful and stunning as the Black-necked Stilt.

More species are present during the fall than any other season in Bermuda. Frontal weather systems moving off the East Coast of North America can bring a wealth of bird species and September/October are also peak hurricane months here. If the eye of a hurricane passes over the island, confused birds with no way of escaping the hurricane drop out of the sky – from egrets to tiny warblers.

Birding by Season Fall Prothonotary Warbler

Prothonotary Warbler

During the autumn months, birds are migrating southwards from their breeding grounds in North America. Although Bermuda is 600 miles off the American coast, a quick look at the globe will show that it is on a direct line between regions of North and South America. Most migrants will have stored enough energy reserves for a long, direct flight – but weather is always unpredictable.

Birding by Season Winter Ducks

From left: Lesser Scaup, Ring-neck Duck, Hooded Merganser,  Lesser Scaup

The winter months in Bermuda can be very rewarding for birdwatching, as many migrant species remain to spend the winter in Bermuda. It is possible to see more species in a single day than at any other time of the year. The National Audubon Society of the U.S. has held a Christmas Bird Count for over 100 years. Bermuda has taken part in this count since 1974, averaging about 90 species per count, although about 250 species have been recorded in total. So it’s a good time to be out with your binoculars.

As one might expect, water birds tend to be more in evidence in winter, most having arrived from continental America. Pied-billed Grebes and American Coots take up residence in fresh-water and brackish ponds. Double-crested Cormorants fish in inshore waters and often form a roost of up to fifty birds at the west end of the island. Herons and egrets regularly roost at Spittal Pond: Great Egret, Snowy Egret, Little Blue Heron, Cattle Egret and Green Heron. The large Great Blue Herons tend to roost separately and are much in evidence during the day in the Great Sound and Hamilton Harbour islands. Much more difficult to see is the American Bittern, nearly always cryptically camouflaged amongst the tall grasses and cattails of the marshes.

Material adapted from "A Birdwatching Guide to Bermuda" by Andrew Dobson, Arlequin Press 2002. 

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Photos courtesy of Andrew Dobson, Paul Watson, Chris Burville, Ras Mykkal, Jennifer Gray, Rosalind Wingate, Rick Slaughter and others.

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The Bermuda Audubon Society
P.O. Box HM 1328
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