Migrating August Birds

In August, with the return of the rain after a long dry summer there was a heavy movement of birds through our area. Most of the adult Rufous Hummingbirds were gone by the middle of the month and only the hard to identify juvenile birds remained to bicker over the feeders.

Early Migrants

A few early migrants that will winter here began showing up at the Steigerwald Refuge including a female Bufflehead duck and a couple of Lincoln's Sparrows. A strictly migrant species, the Black Swift, was among the flocks of swallows feeding over the fields and marshes there. This swift is about the same size as a swallow and nests on cliffs behind waterfalls, usually high in the mountains. Local nesting sites for this species have yet to be discovered but they are seen annually here in late August. There may be undiscovered nest sites at waterfalls in the Gorge or on Mount Adams.

Unexpected Sightings

While August is usually considered a slow month for birding there were three birds found early in the month that had never been seen previously in the Washington State. A Common Eider was found at Port Angeles, this is a large sea duck that nests in Alaska and does not migrate very far south for the winter. Strangely enough there was also one seen in Northern California earlier this summer for that state's first record. A Little Stint, which is a small Eurasian sandpiper, was seen for over a week in Kennewick. And the third new species was a Black-tailed Gull that is still being seen near Tokeland in Pacific County. This gull is a species from Asia and most probably arrived here by following a ship across the ocean from its normal range in Korea.

A homeowner in Camas contacted me for help in identifying a bird coming to their feeder that they could not find a picture of in their bird book. I went to their home and viewed a bright red bird with a glowing orange head, a black face mask and black wings. After quite a bit of research I finally matched it with a picture of a Fiery-fronted Bishop, a bird from Tanzania and Mozambique. Obviously this beautiful bird, which is non-migratory, is an escaped cage bird. There are now flocks of both Orange and Red Bishop birds established in Arizona and California but I haven't heard of any wild flocks of this closely related species.

Wintering Species

As Fall approaches the non-resident birds that have been coming to our feeders will be replaced by the wintering species such as Pine Siskin, Dark-eyed Junco, Fox Sparrow, and Golden-crowned Sparrow. By putting out food now, if you haven't been feeding all summer, you can attract these early migrants to your feeders and keep them there through the winter. It doesn't take very long for the birds to discover a source of food and establish their wintering territories.

Report a Sighting

Please contact me with any bird sightings that you find interesting, and I will post them in this column.