Weekly Bird Report | CAI

Weekly Bird Report

The Weekly Bird Report with Mark Faherty can be heard every Wednesday morning at 8:45am and afternoon at 5:45pm.

Mark has been the Science Coordinator at Mass Audubon’s Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary since August 2007 and has led birding trips for Mass Audubon since 2002. He is past president of the Cape Cod Bird Club and current member of the Massachusetts Avian Records Committee.

Mark Whitaker / carolinabirdclub.org

The antics and puzzling behavior of crows prompted many calls in our November edition of Bird News. Also this month, water fowl are returning to our area, and preparations are underway for the Christmas Bird Count. Vern Laux and Mindy Todd talk birding, answer questions, and have a new Bird Brain Quiz.

Audio posted above.

Vern Laux

I derive great pleasure when looking at Arctic-hatched immature sandpipers during the fall months, the birds oblivious to the hulking mammal (that would be me) that outweighs them by thousands of times, allowing for a close approach and excellent views.

Jill Clardy / flickr

  Now is the time that northerly nesting loons, grebes, sea ducks and gulls arrive to spend the winter months off our shores.

This is their tropics, a respite from where they have just left where it will be a frozen, inhospitable environment until next May. A look off any favored spot at the water, in the early morning, will reveal long lines of ducks and scattered numbers of flying loons passing by. There are many excellent spots around the Cape and Islands to view large concentrations of sea ducks that are fairly easy to access.

Tatiana Gettelman / flickr

A wayward hummingbird from the mountains of the western U.S. showed up in a small community garden on Nantucket's Hummock Pond Road on the afternoon of October 19th. The Calliope Hummingbird is North America’s smallest bird.

Marc AuMarc/ flickr

The Columbus Day Weekend lived up to its considerable and deserved reputation as offering some of the best birding of the year with the discovery of an immature Brown Booby, a tropical seabird that was unknown from this part of the world until 3 years ago. In recent years sightings have increased all over the Gulf of Maine; something is clearly going on with this species. The bird was seen all 3 days of the long weekend off of Provincetown.

Jean-Sébastien Bouchard / flickr / CC BY 2.0

The only animals to possess feathers are birds. If it has feathers it must be a bird.

Jim Hickcox / flickr

If you are feeding birds. it's nothing to take lightly. As you enjoy the activity and vibrant colors birds provide, then you are obligated to keep feeding steadily. Now that you have started you are committed and must not stop until the middle of April.

Most people find it most effective to feed different types of seed from different feeders. Some even provide cracked corn on the ground for squirrels, and some real squirrel feeders. 

Don Sutherland / flickr

The next few weeks are the best time of the year to see numbers of peregrine falcons as they migrate south. The species is all the way back from the brink of extinction and putting on a show for those who care to view it.

This species has a worldwide distribution, found on every continent except Antarctica. They are found the length and breadth of North and South America. They breed in Greenland as well as in New York City, Boston, and many other cities on skyscrapers and bridges. They are extremely adaptable.

Vern Laux

From September into October large flocks of Tree Swallows put on incredible displays just before sunset and ending some 10 minutes later. Congregating en masse, the birds resemble an enormous "science fiction cloud" of small alien life forms, as they twist and turn, hover and flutter, and generally seethe across the sky at an altitude that makes them hard to see without the aid of binoculars. They make up what looks like a rolling, thin cloud, composed of many tens of thousands of individual birds.

Carol Foil / flickr

Even the most hardened nature cynic has a hard time shrugging off the wonder of a seething mass of graceful swallows. The Cape and Islands is a great place to observe this fall phenomenon. Counting the number of individual birds is problematic as the moving flock resembles a smoky cloud, not birds, as it twists and turns. However, with practice, and after analyzing photos, the art of estimating numbers of birds in enormous flocks, can be remarkably accurate. In our area these massive flocks of birds can range from two to three hundred thousand individuals.

A. Goddard

Ornithologist Vern Laux joins Mindy Todd for the monthly Bird News hour, with stories, questions and our monthly quiz & bird song. Brian Morris takes us on a visit to Cape Cod Wild Care, where a great horned owl and some loons are recovering from injuries. We hear from Veterinarian Dr.

Mike Ostrowski / flickr

The annual fall migration of tree swallows has begun. Big numbers of swallows are showing up at favored spots across Cape Cod and the Islands. These attractive and hardy small birds are able to digest Bayberries and leisurely move south in the fall feasting on these abundant ripening fruits. As they move south, transporting and depositing the seeds by defecating on newly created shores and dunes, they are both making more bayberry and improving prospects for future migrations. It is profitable for both the birds and the plants.

September Birding Rich with Promise

Aug 28, 2013
Dominic Sherony / flickr

This next week is the best week of the year for Buff-breasted and Baird’s Sandpipers to appear on Cape Cod and the Islands. These globetrotters are on a tight schedule moving from the high Arctic to southern South America. If they do appear in our area, it invariably happens in a very small window of opportunity. That time is now. In fact, historically this next week promises to be excellent.

Vern Laux

Up until a scant few years ago it was believed that the Ruby-throated Hummingbird was the only species to visit our area. But as birders have become more knowledgeable about how to separate the very hard to identify females and young of not only Ruby-throated Hummingbirds but several western species that nest as far north as Alaska, other species are now almost routinely discovered in the fall. Most have been the very similar Rufous Hummingbird, but several other species have occurred as well.

Vern Laux

Birding picked up dramatically in all habitats this past week. Seabirds, shorebirds and land birds all increased in their respective habitats. The fall migration features many more birds on the Cape and Islands’ than during the spring migration. A couple of important reasons for this are bird populations are at their annual high, a result of all the young birds, first time migrants, that were fledged during the breeding season. Every species populations are at their annual peak, during the late summer and early fall. So there are more birds to see!

Even during this seeming summer lull, there are birds on the move, migrating. Every time the wind direction blows from the northwest, it will deliver southbound shorebirds to Cape and Island shores. There are many excellent locales to view migrant shorebirds. Far and away the best place to see this recurring phenomenon are the miles of beaches and flats at the confluence on the Atlantic Ocean and Nantucket Sound, the barrier beach and flats that comprise South Beach and the Monomoy Islands off the Town of Chatham.

Please, Don't Feed the Gulls

Jul 17, 2013
Vern Laux

Many on vacation think it's great fun to feed the gulls. It is fun initially - but like feeding wild animals anywhere, it is a bad practice. It dulls the birds’ innate fear of humans and encourages increasingly aggressive behavior. And it is bad for the birds. Subjecting them to what we humans eat could be the cruelest trick of all.

V. Laux

Butterflies hit their peak of diversity at this time across Cape Cod and the Islands. The Nantucket Butterfly Count is underway - an effort to find as many butterflies of as many species as possible. Our persisting southwest winds - known at this season as "butterfly winds" may bring unusual species of butterflies from the south; like birds, butterflies use favorable winds to aid their migrations.

Audio essay posted above.

Russavia / wiki commons

The bald eagle was threatened with extinction in the 1960s, as were many other top-of-the-food-chain raptors including the Osprey and Peregrine Falcon. Persistent pesticides, mostly DDT, habitat loss, and other problems created by humans, brought about these declines. Through decades of identifying and correcting problems, the enactment of the Endangered Species Act in 1973 and captive breeding programs, these species were brought back from the brink of extinction.

Far to the North, Shorebirds are in the Nursery

Jun 26, 2013
Vern Laux

While the first week of summer brings hot weather to the Cape and Islands, far to the north in the Arctic tundra many shorebirds and other birds are flocking and hatching their young. For a brief and exciting time in June and July, the Arctic explodes with avian life - especially in certain favored locations. The seasonally food-rich and relatively predator-free environment helps to make it the world’s nursery for migratory shorebirds, waterfowl, loons, grebes, jaegers, gyrfalcons and many others.

Hear more details in Vern's audio essay, posted above.

Vern Laux

The din of bird song at dawn and dusk is remarkable at this time in June. Familiar Carolina Wrens, Black-capped Chickadees and American Robins have already fledged one batch of young and are close to bringing off a second brood. Most single clutch birds found here are now busy feeding young. It is a moment of heightened bird activity. Vern Laux has details in this week's Bird Report, audio posted above.

hjhipster / flickr

A number of summers ago a mockingbird in Oak Bluffs did something new. A man that loved large parrots had obtained a new bird, a Green and Yellow Macaw. This particular macaw used to live with a family with an infant and had quite a vocabulary. It loved to say “Hello.”

The bird's caretaker had the bird outside on a perch while doing things and the bird was constantly saying “Hello.” Hour after hour, the bird was talking, and that was the word constantly repeated. He brought the bird in at night to the safety of his house.

Tim Hamilton http://www.flickr.com/photos/bestrated1

Baby birds require from their parents near-constant feeding. But cleaning up after them isn't so hard. Most land birds have developed a technique for ridding waste that make diapers look antiquated. Bird nestlings magically dispose of their excrement in little fecal sacks. The waste is packaged in a little white balloon for disposal, which the adults efficiently remove.

Dick Daniels http://carolinabirds.org/

Area birdwatchers went into the Memorial Day weekend with high hopes, as it is historically a great weekend for birding. But the weather did not cooperate, with strong northwest winds, soaking rains, fog, and chilly temperatures. Nonetheless, some fine sightings were made, including:

  • 2 Mississippi Kites
  • Worm-eating Warbler
  • Chuck-will's-widow

Also of note is the seasonal return of Sooty Shearwaters.

Audio of the Weekly Bird Report is posted above.


Many years, Memorial Day weekend is the best of the year for birding. Historically, it is the hands-down winner for providing the most exciting birding of the spring migration, as both vagrants and visitors alike appear during this long weekend.