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Eastern Kingbird by Mike Benkis

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Late spring birding brings Sparrows and Warblers and more . . . oh, my!

Birding in May is generally very different from birding in June. Early in May a wide array of species will wing their way north from sunnier climes. By month’s end, most will either be nesting here or floating farther north toward the Dakotas, Minnesota or Canada. As the calendar eases into June, our Midlands migrants will have settled down to breed, build nests, and defend their fledglings, in or out of the nest.

So, which birds might you catch on the fly as they push north toward their summer homes? Warblers are one species of May migrant you may glimpse overhead or capture with your camera. Among these potential visitors are: the Palm Warbler, the Chestnut-sided Warbler, the Black-throated Green Warbler, the Blackpoll Warbler, and the Bay-breasted Warbler. Additional species that do not nest here but that may tease you with a fast fly-by include the Thrushes (Swainson’s Thrush, the Gray-cheeked Thrush, the Veery, the Northern Waterthrush) and the Sparrows (Harris’s Sparrow, the White-throated Sparrow, the White-crowned Sparrow, LeConte’s Sparrow), although some Sparrows do winter in Eastern Nebraska. Birds in the Shorebird family and some members of the Flycatcher family pass through our area but don’t generally nest here.

Among the species that do migrate and nest in Eastern Nebraska are: the Redstart Warbler, the Wood Thrush, Scarlet and Summer Tanagers, Great Crested Flycatchers, the Common Yellowthroat Warbler, and the Northern Parula Warbler. You may have noted that I’ve referred to “Eastern Nebraska” several times. That’s because you may not see the migrants I’ve mentioned above in Western Nebraska; if they do turn up, it won’t be until late in the May-June time frame.

If you spot a species you don’t recognize over the next two months, be sure to ask one of our many experienced birders in the Metro area — or check your field guide or birding app. And always consult the range map for whichever species you think you may have seen.     

Although you’ll find many of these species anywhere there are trees, you may have the best luck at familiar birding haunts, such as Fontenelle Forest, Neale Woods, Lauritzen Gardens, Walnut Grove Park, Towl Park, Heron Haven, and Platte River State Park. Remember: Park hours may vary due to COVID-19 regulations.