Birder’s Almanac – July

By and large the birds of June remain in July, but for some northern species southbound migration is underway already, adding to variety—notably shorebirds, many adults of which pass through as early as last few days of June in worn breeding plumage, their numbers growing in July. Stragglers from the south, such as little blue or tricolored herons, may appear at this time, influenced by localized habitat changes or post-breeding wanderings. Our breeding waterfowl enter their eclipse plumages and become flightless for a time; their flight feathers grow back in August, the males remaining bereft of their showy nuptial plumages until molt is completed in October and November. The development of juveniles continues rapidly, and secretive species like least bitterns may be easiest to find in early July, when gawky young flounder about and cling to cattail stalks in the marshes.

Most of our fall shorebirds may be seen in July, even if the peaks of their migrations are yet to come. Waterfowl broods are easiest to see early in the month, before young become independent. A few very early migrants—our familiar yellow warblers are an example—now begin their inconspicuous departures from our northern clime. Grackles and red-winged blackbirds, their young having become independent, gather into large flocks to roost, flocks that will grow in autumn. As short as the summer birding season is, encompassing only June and July, in the latter half of July the signs of fall’s changes are impossible to miss.

—Bill Whan

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