Busy Fall Migration For Sullivan’s Island Birds

By Sarah Harper for The Island Eye News

It has been a busy Fall migration season at Sullivan’s Island Bird Banding Station! 

Unfortunately, we had to cancel quite a few banding days due to wind, rain and a tropical storm. We banded over 700 birds from over 40 different species! I’m working hard on the tedious task of data entry and I’ll have the exact numbers and species totals ready by the end of the month. In September, we had a wide variety of warbler species moving through our area, including yellow warblers, common yellowthroats, and American redstarts. Gray catbirds passed through our area in high numbers at the end of September and early-October. Starting in mid-October, Yellow-rumped warblers paraded in and now, many of them are settling in to stay for the winter. 

The shrubby vegetation in the maritime forest provides an excellent food source for migrating birds. Native plants such as pokeberries, dewberries, red cedars and wax myrtles provide a critical source of high-energy berries. Insect food is also vitally important for birds looking to quickly build fat stores before continuing on their fall journeys that can span thousands of miles. The adult male Sharp-shinned Hawk pictured was banded at the station last week. Sharpies overwinter in our area and return north to their breeding grounds each Spring. One Sharp-shinned hawk we banded in 2016 was recaptured later that year by another bander in New Jersey! Recaptures and recoveries of migratory songbirds are rare in bird banding, but they still provide vital data on migration routes, site fidelity and longevity. 

If you are interested in visiting or volunteering for the Sullivan’s Island Bird Banding Station, you can contact Sarah Harper at sullivansislandbirds@gmail.com

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