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8-14 May 2001

International Migratory Bird Day 2001

The second Saturday in May is International Migratory Bird Day (IMBD)--a time to celebrate and appreciate birds that return to a region after spending time elsewhere.

scarlet tanager (breeding male)
All photos & text © Hilton Pond Center

Scarlet Tanager (adult male)

In our usual hemispheric bias, U.S. and Canadian citizens often refer to IMBD as a celebration of the ARRIVAL of birds in spring; we would do well to remember that folks in the tropics are likewise commemorating the DEPARTURE of birds that have spent the non-breeding season as far away as South America. (And let's not forget that other hemispheres besides ours also have northward movements of birds at this time of year--Africa to Europe or Australia to Asia, for example--making migration truly an international event.)

Here at Hilton Pond Center in the Carolina Piedmont, spring migration starts in early April and continues until almost June, but the biggest influx and greatest variety of birds do occur the second week in May.

This year we observed International Migratory Bird Day (12 May) pretty much the way we do most days--running mist nets to sample local bird life, but the assortment of birds we caught had special impact. Walking the net lanes, we spent a lot of time doing what IMBD is supposed to make us do--think about these birds we claim as our own but that we share with people in other states, other counties, even other continents. With each bird we caught, we were moved by its beauty and the story it could tell if only it could talk.

magnolia warbler (breeding male)Appropriately for IMBD, nearly every bird we banded was a Neotropical migrant--a bird that hatched out somewhere in the U.S. or Canada but probably has spent more months of of its life in a country where the language is not English, but Spanish or Portuguese. I could only speculate about exactly where these birds have been since last fall, but perhaps the adult male Magnolia Warbler (left) in full breeding plumage had wintered in Costa Rica, and the Red-eyed Vireo had journeyed from whatever rain forests remain in the Amazon basin.

Then there was a female Northern Parula, back from Nicaragua long enough to nest locally and develop a brood patch . . . the Louisiana Waterthrush that had walked streams in Panama like the one that flows from Hilton Pond . . . indigo bunting (female)the female Indigo Bunting (below right) that ate seeds and winter insects in Mexican scrub. . . a Gray Catbird that flew across the Caribbean from the West Indies . . . and the second-year Summer Tanager male (below left) that spent the last several months in Brazil molting into brilliant red plumage tinged with a few yellow feathers that belied its age.

Each of these birds has made its arduous round trip at least once, and each has survived potential dangers along and on both ends of the migratory path--from habitat destruction to communications towers, from feral cats to pesticide spray. How ever do they do it?

summer tanager (second-year male)Too often folks take our avian friends for granted, so we're especially grateful we could have these birds in the hand at Hilton Pond Center as we pondered the life of each. Pardon our waxing poetic, but for us this was an especially inspirational International Migratory Bird Day, and we hope yours was, too.

For larger views of the Neotropical migrants (*) and other birds banded
Hilton Pond Center on International Migratory Bird Day 2001,
click on any underlined bird names below.

magnolia warbler (breeding male)

Magnolia Warbler
(adult male)*

red-eyed vireo

Red-eyed Vireo*

northern parula (female)

Northern Parula*

Louisiana waterthrush

Louisiana Waterthrush*

indigo bunting (female)

Indigo Bunting*
(adult female)

gray catbird

Gray Catbird*

summer tanager (second-year male)

Summer Tanager*
(second-year male)

Carolina wren

Carolina Wren

Eastern bluebird (nestling)

Eastern Bluebird

blue jay

Blue Jay

  eastern phoebe

Eastern Phoebe

All photos © Hilton Pond Center

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The following species were banded this week (8-14 May):

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher--1
Magnolia Warbler--1
Northern Parula--1
Blackpoll Warbler--2
Black-and-white Warbler--1
American Redstart--2
Common Yellowthroat--3
Yellow Warbler--4
Eastern Wood-Pewee--1
Eastern Phoebe--1
Chipping Sparrow--1
Acadian Flycatcher--2
Northern Waterthrush--4
Swamp Sparrow--2
Yellow-throated Vireo--1
Red-eyed Vireo--1
Louisiana Waterthrush--1
Indigo Bunting--3
Gray Catbird--9
Northern Cardinal--1
Summer Tanager--3
Swainson's Thrush--1
Tufted Titmouse--3
Downy Woodpecker--1
Carolina Wren--1
Eastern Bluebird--7 (nestlings)
Cedar Waxwing--2
House Finch--1
White-breasted Nuthatch--1
Brown Thrasher--2
American Robin--4
Common Grackle--1
Blue Jay--1


All photos © Hilton Pond Center


(8-14 May 2001)
33 species
70 individuals

43 species
473 individuals
(since 28 June 1982)
122 species
38,756 individuals

Red-eyed Vireo (1)
American Goldfinch (1)
Northern Cardinal (3)
House Finch
Eastern Tufted Titmouse (1)
Eastern (Rufous-sided) Towhee (1)

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Made With MacintoshHilton Pond Center for Piedmont Natural History is a non-profit research & education organization in York, South Carolina USA; phone (803) 684-5852. Directed by Bill Hilton Jr., aka "The Piedmont Naturalist," it is the parent organization for Operation RubyThroat. Contents of this website--including articles and photos--may NOT be duplicated, modified, or used in any way except with the express written permission of Hilton Pond Center. All rights reserved worldwide. To obtain permission for use or for further assistance on accessing this website, contact: WEBMASTER.