The First Week in May: Expected Return of Six Nesting Species

Nature is cyclic, with many events occurring at approximately the same time each year. This is especially true in bird migration.

One of the advantages of taking repeated nature walks in the same park year after year is the recognition of local migration patterns. Based on what I have been able to observe and record in the past, I know that there is a strong likelihood that the following six species will return to Eliza Howell Park the first week in May and will be here for the breeding season.

Baltimore Oriole. In the last 5 years (2016 – 2020), the first-of-the-season appearance has been on these dates: May 5, May 1, May 4, May 1, May 4.

Photo courtesy of Margaret Weber.

Several pairs of Baltimore Orioles build their fascinating hanging nests in mature trees in the park each year, beginning before the end of May. These nests are one of the highlights of the annual Detroit Audubon “nesting birds field trip” to Eliza Howell.

Eastern Kingbird. In the last five years, my first-of-the-year sightings have been on May 5, May 2, May 7, May 1, May 15.

Photo courtesy of Margaret Weber.

Eastern Kingbirds also nest in mature trees in Eliza Howell, frequently selecting American Sycamore trees. Their nests are usually constructed on horizontal branches.

Great Crested Flycatcher. In the last five years, my first-of-the-year sightings have been on May 7, April 29, May 1, May 7, May 4.

Photo courtesy of Margaret Weber.

A small number of Great Crested Flycatchers spend the breeding season in the park and, while their behavior clearly indicates that they reproduce here, I have not actually located a nest.They nest in cavities in trees — such as old woodpecker holes — and seem to disappear into the woods while I am distracted by other nesting species in the more open areas of the park.

Gray Catbird. In the last five years, the first-of-the-year sightings have been on May 7, May 3, May 4, April 30, April 30.

Photo courtesy of Margaret Weber.

Catbirds are regular nesters in Eliza Howell, placing their nests in thickets, usually near more open areas. The nests are normally under 10 feet high, which means that I have several times had the opportunity to look into a nest and see the very attractive blue eggs.

Rose-breasted Grosbeak. In the last five years, I first spotted one on May 5. May 1, May 4, May 1, May 4.

Photo courtesy of Margaret Weber.

Rose-breasted Grosbeaks nest at a higher level than Catbirds, but lower than Baltimore Orioles and Kingbirds. They prefer small trees with many branches. Their nests are not as sturdily constructed as many other species; I have on occasion been able to see right through one. But they breed successfully.

Warbling Vireo. In the last five years, I have seen a Warbling Vireo in EHP first on May 5, April 26, May 7, May 5, May 7.

Photo courtesy of Margaret Weber.

Pairs of Warbling Vireos nest in Eliza Howell each year, attaching their small hanging cup-like little nests to forks of small branches, often on the outer edges of large trees. It is always exciting to find one of these nests when it is low enough to see the bird on it.

….

There are other species that come just for the breeding season, some earlier than the first week of May and some a little later. But right now, with May Day only a few days away, I am looking forward to welcoming these six. They will provide a great deal of bird-watching enjoyment in next couple months.

4 thoughts on “The First Week in May: Expected Return of Six Nesting Species

  1. Hello – I always especially appreciate your bird photography! Do you ever contribute to magazines like Birds and Blooms? Bet they would print many of your bird shots and I think they pay pretty well…

    Like

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