As birders and all humans alike, we all are accustomed to the seasonal changes but when have we stopped to think: “when is the birding season?” I ask myself questions like: “when’s the best season to snap the most gorgeous pictures of rare birds in my area?” I’ve always thought about it because I wanted each birding trip to be a fruitful one. To satisfy my curiosity, I dug around a little on the internet and found some useful nuggets that I hope to share with you!
When Is Birding Season? Birding season happens twice a year, in fall and in spring when birds migrate to and from warmer climates around the globe. Birders favor going birding during theses specific seasons to catch glimpses of a greater variety and greater number of bird species.
Birding season relies heavily on the migration cycle that birds take on throughout the year to reach warmer climates in other parts of the globe. If you would like to know more about birding season and how bird migratory cycles affect them, then read on!
Birds and Seasons
Us humans, we live our lives mostly oblivious to the usual changes of seasons around us. For the temperate climates, the 4 seasons of spring summer, fall, and winter, and for the temperate climates, sometimes monsoon seasons and dry seasons.
But as birders, we often have to be more aware of the seasons in the temperate climates because they heavily affect how birds behave. In particular, their migration cycles follow suit after the four season which bring out fluctuations in heat and humidity.
I found out that interestingly, the seasons bring in different amounts and varieties of bird species! I myself got really fascinated first-hand when I saw a fellow member of my local birding group upload a magnificent picture of a peregrine falcon in Singapore! Although common is some other parts of the globe, it is an uncommon migrant in my parts. (I need to contain my excitement!)
Birds adjust their lifestyles, food, plumage, and behavior based on the seasons, and so it is extremely crucial for birders to know when the best times of the year to go birding – birding seasons. This is so that we can capture the most magnificent and surprising pictures for our life lists!
Although all seasons are great for birding, birding seasons in the spring, and especially fall season, demand that we sit upright and pay close attention, lest we miss a great opportunity for birding.
Birding Season In Springtime
Birding in the springtime is an amazing experience! If you live in North America or in the Northern Hemisphere, you are in luck! Words simply cannot describe how many feel when they see the first signs of our feathered migrants from overseas. In addition to the joy of seeing the birds, it is also a warm reminder that winter is ending and the warmth of spring is coming really soon! To put it poetically, each day out spring birding is like a warm expectation of an exciting new beginning.
Even if you’re not out birding outdoors (did you see what I did here), birding indoors from your own home and feel equally amazing. Why? This is because of the increasingly fleeting and bustling sounds of birds chirping again, right in your backyard!
Springtime birding season is also not to be missed because not only are the birds in the air, love is also in the air! Many bird species immediately begin to look for a potential mate and start producing their own offspring right in spring itself! As such, it is normal to see flocks of birds gathering together in large groups to socialize and find potential mates in your backyard tree 😉 You can find them by the songs that they sing to attract their mates.
After a long trip of migration over both land and oceans, birds are often hungry. They start to look for food sources that have recently re-appeared in springtime. It is wise for any beginner birder to pay attention to birds during this period as you can observe the feeding and foraging behavior, alongside some squabbles between birds on territory and bird feeders in backyards.
Birding Season in The Fall
Birding season in the fall has to be one of the most exciting periods of the birding year. In fact, it is the most popular birding season!
The fall season is called a birding season for a reason. From colorful foliage to cooler temperatures, birding are starting to prepare for their long haul to warmer climates and countries like mine! (Singapore!).
In the fall, birders all around the globe can look forward to more migratory activity in birds. Birders unite! This is because birds take long migratory routes which entail multiple stopovers in many countries. This is extremely exciting because of the chance to see a rare migrant bird in your own geographic location, wherever you are. In the figure below, we see the East Asian-Australasian flyway demonstrated the migratory paths of some migrant bird species that follow it.
Different bird species can migrate for different distances this season. Long-distance migrators such as cranes and sandpipers move between August – October. Shorter distance migrants are on the move all through the start of fall to December.
The fall is also an amazing time to observe birds because it also coincides with the time for harvesting of crops. So it is wise to observe more birds stopping over at farms or orchards to pick at the yummy food!
Birding In Other Seasons
Birding In Summertime: Summertime is a season where birds begin to molt. Birds in this season tend to take on a lower profile, shed old and worn-out feathers, allowing for new fully-formed feathers to replace them. As such, birds have less agility during this period, making to more vulnerable to their predators.
In addition to their lesser movement, they are also less vocal during this period. This is to preserve their energy and at the same time, attract less attention to prevent detection from predators, much to the dismay of us birders. With less vocality, birds are harder to spot. A piece of advice for new birders to take is to look for molted feathers to track down the presence of a bird nearby.
Birding In Wintertime: This period of the year, most birds migrate to escape the cold, and birds that remain are mostly resident birds who stay put throughout the year. These birds go against the popular phrase: “birds fly south for the winter”. Examples of birds who choose to hunker down are robins, sparrows, and cardinals.
How You Can Maximize Your Experience During Birding Season
With all this information about what the birding seasons are, let’s look at a quick summary on how to maximize your birding season:
Here’s a link to a clearer version of the above infographic, if you need it! 🙂
Best Times Of The Day To Go Birding
While you may know the time of the year to go birding, you may also wonder which time of the day is best to go birding. Here are some quick examples:
- Morning: A perfect time to hear the dawn chorus and spot birds early in the morning. Birds forage early in the morning so you can be sure to catch them while they are feeding, whether it be in the wild or your own bird feeder!
- Noon: In the afternoon, it is the hottest time of the day, so birds tend to hide under shelter to hide from the sun. However, a number of birds of prey such as falcons and hawks still linger around at the higher altitudes to catch prey. Be sure to look out for them!
- Evening: In the evenings, it is difficult to see most birds as most will be nestled in their nests, preparing to take a rest for the day. However, some nocturnal birds start to awake. Alongside springtime and fall birding seasons, it is a great time to see and hear owls, nightjars, and nightingales.
While the springtime and fall birding seasons are a birder’s absolute favorite, if you were to ask me personally when is birding season, I would say: “any season’s birding season”. While it is more thrilling to go birding during birding season, it always is exciting to go birding anytime nonetheless. And that may even include our own backyards. Happy birding, you!