This turkey season, keep an eye out for ‘other’ birds, too
While so many of us Ohio outdoors folks are focused on one species of bird right now, the wild turkey, don’t forget to stop and smell the proverbial roses during your long hours on stand. Pass the time watching other birds.
A marvelous phenomenon occurs each fall and winter in these latitudes – migration. All of Ohio is on a major northbound migratory path in spring, and all manner of neotropical songbirds, waterfowl, and waterbirds funnel through, especially toward the southwest shoreline of Lake Erie.
One of my more memorable moments turkey hunting occurred one spring when a small flock of spectacular ruby-red-bodied, dark-winged scarlet tanagers flitted through the undergrowth around my stand. I have watched and counted many other species as well, such as ruby-crowned and golden-crowned kinglets, and all sorts of wood warblers, more than 35 species of which may pass through Ohio between late April and early June.
The Oak Harbor-based Black Swamp Bird Observatory, which hosts the Biggest Week in American Birding (May 4-13), lists an incredible 265 or so species as “possibles” this time of year – not including rare exceptions. So there’s a lot to watch for when you’re on stand, if you look as hard for birds as a turkey looks for you.
On a related note, about 15 percent of the 10,600 known bird species worldwide migrate, according to a well-received, peer-reviewed study recently published in the journal Nature Ecology & Evolution. It presents a model that offers a very big-picture view of the global distribution of birds.
The Washington Post, in a report on the study, notes that about 5 billion birds enter the United States from the tropics and remind us during their “dawn chorus” that they were the ones who invented the tweet.
The seasonal migration of so many birds is an ecological puzzle, the study said. Yet so many bird species embark on exhausting, heroic journeys, commuting thousands of miles between their summer breeding grounds and the places they spend the winter.
The study interestingly found that the energy cost to a bird of flying long distances is balanced out by the energy savings of being in a place where, in summer, there are lots of mosquitoes, flies, insect larvae and other avian delicacies, and relatively little competition for food. So everything from wood thrushes, chestnut-sided warblers, indigo buntings, Baltimore orioles, rose-breasted grosbeaks, tree swallows, broad-winged hawks and more take wing in spring and reverse course in the fall.
It is worth keeping an eye peeled for the spectacle during the rest of the turkey season and beyond.