Calendar of Birdlife in Pennsylvania

(modified from Wood, M. 1979. Birds of Pennsylvania. P.S.U. Press.)
    As the year begins, the number of species in your area depends largely on the severity of the winter. Cold weather may not only kill off birds not tolerant of low temperatures, but freezing ponds will push waterfowl further south. Look for birds this month at feeders, unfrozen bodies of water, shrubby areas and manured fields. Late in the month birds start to sing again, especially Northern Cardinal, Tufted Titmouse, and Great Horned Owls.
    This month marks the lowest number of species present. Spring migration usually begins with the return of a few species of waterfowl, Ring-billed Gull, Horned Lark, American Robin, Eastern Bluebird, Red-winged Blackbird, and Song Sparrow. Singing increases, and believe it or not, Great Horned Owls are nesting.

    Wintering birds that breed in northern Canada begin to leave, including the Rough-legged Hawk, Short-eared Owl, Rusty Blackbird, and Snow Bunting. As signs of thawing and the swelling of buds begin, so does spring migration which continue to build through May. Look for grebes, waterfowl, hawks and sparrows. Pigeons, Horned Larks, European Starlings and House Sparrows are now nesting. Bird houses for Purple Martins, House Wren, Eastern Bluebirds and others should be up by now.

    Any lingering wintering species are leaving. Look for loons, herons, hawks, terns, swallows, wrens, thrashers, thrushes, early warblers and sparrows. Singing is at a peak and many species are beginning to nest.
    You can expect more species in May than any other time of year. Look for peak numbers between May 10-20. Look for herons, rails, shorebirds, cuckoos, flycatchers, thrushes, vireos, warblers, orioles and tanagers. Most migrants leave by the end of the month with breeding now in full swing for local residents.
    Early days of this month will find some late-migrating species like flycatchers and shorebirds. Nesting is at a peak with about 177 species breeding in Pennsylvania. Some species already have young out of the nest.

    Singing decreases and many young birds are around. Some species begin a second nesting. As nesting territories break down, many species begin to wander, especially herons. "Fall" migration begins "officially" on July 4th as shorebirds begin arriving from the tundra.
    The woods are noticeably quiet as singing and the nesting season winds down quickly. Southward migration begins for most species. Shorebird migration peaks this month. Look for large daytime movements of nighthawks late in August.
    The peak of landbird migration occurs this month. Hawks can be seen in good numbers from traditional lookout posts like Hawk Mountain. Look for southbound warblers and shorebirds.


    Species numbers are depleted considerably now although the number of waterfowl is hitting its peak. Look for plenty of hawks, black- birds and sparrows.
    Winter residents are arriving. Look for loons, owls, finches (Purple Finches, Evening Grosbeaks, Pine Siskins), and gulls.
    Cold weather begins culling weaker individuals and the number of birds will decline until spring. Look for birdlife around feeders, bushes with berries, and unfrozen areas. Find a Christmas Bird Count to join!

Pennsylvania has an accepted state list of over 380 species. About 250 of these occur regularly every year. Unless you look in all habitats in every season, you won't see nearly that many. An average observer can find about 150 species per year. With effort and travel to diverse habitats across the state, 200+ species might be recorded.