Letter to Editor #2

4 27 17

SLUG: Letter Kleen

To the editor:

Two very colorful species that often appear at central Illinois feeders in late April and early May are the Rose-breasted Grosbeak and Indigo Bunting. Both have a fondness for seeds and since seeds are rather scarce at the time of their arrival, they readily respond to bird feeders, especially when sunflower seeds are available. The males of these two species are easily recognized and widely reported each spring; the females, however, are not so easily identified and are often passed off as sparrows or finches.

Every year, southern Californians celebrate, with ringing bells, the return of the swallows at the San Juan Capistrano mission on or about St. Joseph’s Day, March 19. A similar event welcomes the return of the vultures (often referred to as “buzzards”) at Hinckley, Ohio, on or about March 15. The celebratory return of these migratory birds is a welcome sign of spring. Central Illinoisans used to herald the arrival of robins each spring; however, that is no longer possible because the robins that nest much farther north now spend the winter months here in central Illinois (this is the “south” for them) and it’s difficult to distinguish a northern winter resident from a truly spring arrival. But, the annual return of other familiar migrants such as the bluebird, Red-winged Blackbird and grackle, can still be used as good indicators of spring.

The spring season for migratory birds occurs over a five month period from late February through early June. Throughout the season dozens of species, ranging from waterfowl to herons, hawks and shorebirds to gulls, and hummingbirds to a large variety on songbirds, return to or pass through Illinois to their nesting grounds. Some, such as the swallows of Capistrano and the “buzzards” at Hinckley have become famous for their annual return within a day or two of a “specific” date each year. Here in central Illinois diligent birders can often predict within two or three days when each species will first be detected; as an example, the first Ruby-throated Hummingbirds typically arrive about April 15th (so, that’s the date hummingbird enthusiasts are encouraged to place their feeders out to attract these birds).

Because the Rose-breasted Grosbeak and Indigo Bunting are so colorful, popular and stand-outs at feeders, they have become Central Illinois’ marque birds comparable to the swallows of Capistrano and vultures of Hinckley. Both the grosbeak and bunting typically arrive about April 30, and, as in the past, observers are again encouraged to report the arrival of both species. Reports (and photos) should be sent to the Lincoln Land Association of Bird Banders (LLABB) by email to LLABBaves@gmail.com or to LLABB, P.O. Box 13442, Springfield, IL 62791. Please include the first date of observation and the maximum number observed at one time (dated photos along with the name of the photographer would also be appreciated). For this event, the definition of “central Illinois” has been limited to Sangamon and its adjacent counties (Macon, Christian, Montgomery, Macoupin, Morgan, Cass, Menard and Logan). LLABB looks forward to hearing from central Illinoisans who observe either or both species at their feeders. At the end of the season, a compilation of all reports received will be prepared and made available to those requesting it. Thank you for your participation.

Vernon Kleen, President

Lincoln Land Association of Bird Banders