On the Wild Side!
E-Newsletter for the Chesapeake Bay Field Office


Spring Returns on the Wings of Birds

Photos of the many birds listed in this article.

Though some birds stay in one area throughout the year, most are constant travelers, ceaselessly following their food. More than 350 species of birds migrate. In the fall as the temperatures cool, birds that feed exclusively on insects, fruit or pollen must fly to warmer climates of South and Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean. As spring returns to North America, so do the birds as they follow their food back to their breeding grounds.

A great variety of birds return to the Chesapeake Bay watershed due to the diversity of breeding habitats here and the food sources these habitats provide. Isolated islands, sandy coastlines, salt marshes, estuarine marshes, grasslands, swamps of forests provide support waterfowl, colonial waterbirds, shorebirds, raptors and songbirds. Here just a smattering of some birds you may see (or just hear) around the watershed this spring

American black duck
Nesting habitat: marshes
Food: agricultural grains, plants, snails, mussels, small crustaceans and fish

Bald eagle
Nesting habitat: mature trees near undisturbed shorelines
Food: fish, waterfowl, turtles, snakes and small mammals

Common tern
Nesting habitat: islands and barrier beaches
Food: small fish, crustaceans and insects

Snowy egret
Nesting habitat: islands and marsh areas with shrubby vegetation
Food: fish, snakes, crustaceans and insects

Red knot
This shorebirds makes a spectacular 9,300 mile flight from wintering grounds of Argentina to Breeding grounds in the Canadian Arctic. They stop in spring to feed on horseshoe crab eggs mostly in the Delaware Bay area, eating voraciously in order to continue their flight north.

Kentucky warbler
Nesting habitat: on the ground in moist, deciduous forests
Food: insects, caterpillars, spiders

Prairie warbler
Nesting habitat: shrubby fields and early stage forests
Food: insects and spiders

Prothonotary warbler
Nesting habitat: tree cavities in forested wetlands and bottomland hardwood forests
Food: insects

Saltmarsh sparrow
Nesting habitat: grassy salt marsh
Food: insects, spiders, amphipods, seeds

Wood thrush
Nesting habitat: shrubs and small trees in deciduous and mixed forests
Food: soil invertebrates, insects, snails


Last updated: March 28, 2011