By Annie Perry, MNA Intern
As MNA gears up for some of its spring bird watching events, we thought we’d feature a few different birds that come back to Michigan in the spring. Keep an eye out for these four birds as you go birding this season!
Red-winged blackbirds can weigh roughly 3 ounces and can have a wingspan of nearly 14.5 inches. The male and female look strikingly different—the male is black with a large red spot on the shoulders, while females are brown and lack any red color. They prefer marsh habitats during the breeding season and open fields and croplands in the winter. While breeding, red-winged blackbirds can be found in cattail, tule, sedge and salt marshes, as well as wetlands. They begin building their nests between March and May.
Indigo bunting males are easy to spot during breeding season. The adult males are small—their bodies only range from 4.5 inches to 5 inches—but they are a brilliant blue with a purple crown. Females and young are brown and have a tinge of blue on their tail and shoulder. Indigo buntings are mainly found through eastern North America and south of the coniferous forest region, though some breeding populations exist in the western United States. They winter in the coastal regions of Mexico, Central America, northern South America and the Caribbean. Indigo buntings breed between May and September in brushy and weedy areas at the edge of openings, or in weedy open areas like old farm fields or swamps.
Green herons, unlike great blue herons and other herons, are small and stocky. The green heron has relatively short legs and a body length that ranges from 16 to 18 inches. Adults have a greenish-black cap, a greenish back, wings that are gray-black and fade into green or blue, and gray undersides. Young herons have a white and brown striped neck and chest, and their backs are brown with white and beige spots. Green herons have a wide range and are generally found near wetlands in North America. They spend their non-breeding season in Mexico and Central America, but some live year-round in Mexico, Central America and parts of South America. Green herons that do migrate travel north from March to April, which is earlier than most other herons.
Ruby-throated hummingbirds are tiny birds, with a body measuring between 3 and 3.5 inches long and weighing between 2 and 6 grams (0.071 to 0.21 ounces). Both males and females have an iridescent green back and head and a white belly. Males have a bright red, shiny throat and a forked tail, while females have a dull, grayish throat and a square, white-tipped tail. Ruby-throated hummingbirds breed throughout eastern United States and southern Canada and spend their winters in southern Mexico, Central America and the West Indies. These birds return to their breeding areas in April.
This spring, MNA is hosting a variety of birding events for members and guests. Be sure to check out one of MNA’s events this season!
- Saturday, April 20: Birding and Botanizing trip at Five Lakes Muskegon Nature Sanctuary (Muskegon County)
- Saturday, April 20: Birding Hike at Powell Memorial Nature Sanctuary (Lenawee County)
- Saturday, April 27: Whitefish Point Spring Fling (Paradise, MI—register by April 16)
- Sunday, April 28: Birding Hike at Columbia Nature Sanctuary (Jackson County)
- May 19: Birding Hike at Saginaw Wetlands Nature Sanctuary (Huron County)
- May 26: Bird and Bugs Field Trip at Estivant Pines Nature Sanctuary (Keweenaw County)