Birder’s Almanac – February

February generally begins just as cold and dark as January, but by the end of the month many signs of renewal have emerged. Many birds—finches, doves, cardinals, sparrows, meadowlarks, larks—will have begun singing regularly by then, and hawks—residents and even wintering visitors—will have begun courting. Eagles lay their first eggs by month’s end, while immature eagles hang out in adolescent gangs. Flocks of blackbirds and robins persist widely. Woodcocks may begin beeping in the southern counties early in February. Later in the month killdeers, turkey vultures, cranes, and male red-winged blackbirds will have prominently arrived in the state from the south. All the wintering birds—such as snow buntings, longspurs, winter finches, rough-legged hawks and harriers and owls, the “white-winged” gulls, northern shrikes, merlins, etc.—will stay with us through the month, albeit in smaller numbers, adding to variety. February brings us many more birds than it loses.

It depends on the weather, but in general during the last week of February, if encouraged by even a mild thaw or slight southern winds, a massive movement of ducks occurs, the most dramatic of several lurches northward by these eager water birds, and the courtship rituals that began in January will reach a peak; spring ducks are less wary than those during the fall hunting seasons, and more readily admired in bodies of water statewide. It is a magnificent spectacle.

—Bill Whan

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