flock og Canada geese - often seen in flocks overhead of 50+
ring necked duck
Medium Sized Birds
If you have open lawns, fields, are near agricultural land, or live in a suburban area with open lawns and crops, you might see grackles. with their extremely raspy hawklike gasps and siren imitating calls. Be careful, as these birds along with blue Jays are bullies to small songbirds and will monopolize your feeder!
Even more to be weary of is the brown headed cowbird, who also showing up this month in pastures, forest edges and lawns, is known for laying eggs in other birds nests, which hatch into young who dominate the nest they've been planted into, starving the young native to that nest. If you have a cow bird around you will hear it, they make noisy clicks, whistles and chatter-like calls in addition to a flowing, gurgling song. Many birder's warn those who see cowbirds at their feeders to drive them away.
If your property contains marshes, ponds, old fields or damp pastures, expect to see red winged blackbirds at this time.
Beautiful and exotic looking cedar waxwings will come through Northeast woods during March and feast on the partially thawed fruits and berries that still hang from trees, their digestive system capable of metabolizing large amounts of ethanol, present in the aged, fermented fruits that have lasted through the Winter.
The iconic sign of Spring is of course the American Robin, who begins to show up in larger numbers near the end of March, giving its striking territorial calls and sometimes banging on windows if it happens to fall in love with its own reflection. This bird will claim areas of open lawn and perch on branches near edges of lawn and pasture. If it isn't already staking your grounds looking for worms, you can lure more out by putting out fruit, suet, peanuts and mealworms.
If you live in a rural area with dense thickets and fields, or a suburban area with thick hedges and open lawn, you are likely to attract mockingbirds, who tend to eat berries and insects in the wild, but will come to feeders for suet peanuts, fruit, and fill your backyard with sophisticated calls that imitate many other birds, for which it gets its name.
red winged blackbird
American goldfinch, female
Eastern Screech Owl
Barred owls can still be heard, present throughout the Winter. Great Horned Owls have quieted down, being more prominently heard from December through February while seeking mates. The Eastern Screech Owl can be heard as Spring begins, usually in more rural backyards of deciduous areas East of the Connecticut River. If you are a walker in undisturbed forests with pastures, Turkey vultures begin to pop up at this time also.
the Waxing Emergence of
Spring's Migratory Songbirds
March brings the start of Spring, though it is often messy or better put muddy, as we see Winter's last snows battle with the increasingly sunny days with highs in the 50s or even more. If you live in New England, you have come to understand there is almost never a clean progression of warmth and sun, often we take choppy intervals of warm and then freezing temperatures, and mother nature tries to settle a tumultuously changing and awakening earth.
Ducks and Geese
For our backyard water birds, we see fluxes of different species come in as the month progresses. At the beginning of March, we see and hear an increased amount of Canada geese flying overhead, as they return from the Pacific and Mexico. Snow geese also show at this time, as well as flocks of mallard ducks, Ring-necked ducks and mergansers, as bodies of water thaw.
Be sure not to forget the trill buzzing quack of the woodcock as well, featured at the top of this page! These shore birds can be found in old meadows and forest edges where the grass and understory is wet. Their feathers allow them to remain almost indistinguishable from sight among dead damp leaves on the forest floor.
As for your small songbirds that frequent the feeder, this is the month that the warblers, sparrows and finches begin to grow in numbers. First to appear in March is usually the Eastern Phoebe, with a high pitched call sounding much like its name. This phoebe tends to nest in nooks on bridges, barns, and houses, which is one reason they tend to be the first to spot with the Spring migratory birds. The Yellow Rumped Warbler will make its first appearance in March in the NorthEast as well, with its classic warbled dee-dee-dee, feasting on berries and insects. The American goldfinch, with its three toned harmonies, shows up at backyard feeders in mid March, and you will attract them to your feeder if you stock it with black oil shelled or hulled or nyjer mix. Though more sparse at this time, the common song sparrow will follow later in the month, with its complex song made of well separated notes of different tempos, with buzzes or trills to finish as well as in between. They will also take to feeders with sunflower seeds or nyjer, as well as cracked cord, peanuts and millet.
Contrary to popular belief, it is not the temperature but the availability of food that bring our migratory birds back to New England in March, as many birds are able to withstand cold temperatures as long as they have adequate food supply. Most songbirds eat seeds, nuts, berries and worms, all things that become increasing abundant as the environment shifts from freezing temperatures.
However, as New England Springtimes have always been tempermental, and as our environment increasingly faces volatile temperature shifts and fluctuations throughout the year, our Spring months can provide less of an adequate food supply for many migratory and Wintering birds who already face stiff competition for food sources. One way you can help keep our migratory birds healthy and taken care of when they return to New England is by keeping bird feeders and suet cages in your yard. Suet is a great high calorie food for Wintering birds, and you will easily attract many to suet cages. As for seed, black oil sunflower seeds are the safest bet, as most birds prefer them or will eat them. Avoid fancy mixes that contain millet, as most birds do not like millet. Hulled sunflower seeds, peanuts, dried or fresh mealworms and fresh fruit are also excellent choices. For fruit, apples, berries, grapes and oranges are great choices. Nyjer is a less common seed mix, but will attract finches, sparrows, doves, towhees, quail, buntings, and occassionally crossbills.
In March we will also see Kildeer showing up, an easily identified shorebird found usually near shallow water, lakes or estuaries, though it will also nest in open lawns and gravel rooftops where there is no water. If you see this bird hobbling with a seeminly broken wing, you may not need to be alarmed; this bird feigns injury to lure predators away from its nest.
Be sure not to forget the trill buzzing quack of the woodcock as well, featured at the top of this page! These shore birds can be found in old meadows and forest edges where the grass and understory is wet. Their feathers allow them to remain almost indistinguishable from sight among dead damp leaves on the forest floor, but their loud expletive mating shout resembling a cross between a duck and the smooth end of a cicada's call makes their presence on your land or forest very easy to identify.