Monday, January 30, 2017

The first spring migrant has returned- right on schedule!

Every year, the first species that is detected returning from parts south of us is the Purple Martin.  They seem to always get reported from somewhere in the last week of January, when we are still in our coldest month.  And this despite relying entirely on flying insects for their food!  

Right on schedule, Martins were reported a few places over the weekend, as close as East Baton Rouge and St. James Parishes.  However, the earliest bird reported this year, spotted sometime last week, was in Oak Grove in the far northeast corner of the state (!).

The fact that the first martins are back, however, does not mean their nesting boxes will be full this week.  There is usually a time lag of several weeks between the first report and the bulk arrival of the species.

Usually the first birds back are males, which is actually a widespread pattern among songbird species.  Males precede females in spring migration, so as to have an edge against rival males of their species in procuring nesting territories.

One of the oddities of our spring migration schedule is that it is likely to be a solid month before any other species arrives back.  The next returnee to be reported is less easy to predict- a Swallow-tailed Kite or Northern Parula perhaps?


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