Songbirds Spread Wings South For Fall

By Sarah Harper for The Island Eye News

Painted bunting

Every year, millions of songbirds migrate from North America south to the tropics to spend their nonbreeding season at their overwintering grounds.

This phenomenon is referred to as fall migration, although the season actually starts from mid to late summer. Early fall migrants are already passing through the Lowcountry, including shorebirds and some songbirds.

This week, I observed a piping plover and a Louisiana waterthrush on Sullivan’s Island close to Station 16. 

The Sullivan’s Island Bird Banding Station will soon be banding early migrants, such as traill’s flycatchers, American redstarts and yellow warblers. The young male painted bunting in the photo was banded in May of this year. Painted buntings are regular breeders in the scrubby coastal habitat found here in the Lowcountry. They will depart our area to overwinter in Central America and the Caribbean. I encounter them at the bird banding station throughout the fall until about the second week of November. You can attract painted buntings to your feeders by offering them white millet. Even after the painted buntings clear out, you can still attract a variety of birds to your feeder by offering a mixture of millet and black oil sunflower seeds. 

Adding a block of suet will attract an even wider variety of birds. Chipping sparrows, red-winged blackbirds, red breasted nuthatches and yellow-throated warblers are regular visitors at my feeders each fall.

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