Birds in Spring

More than 100 kinds of birds visit Douglass Park each spring. Most migrate through the park, stopping for a day or so to fuel up on fish, bugs, worms, or seeds, before continuing northwards. For some birds, Douglass Park is a summer home; their breeding season begins in late spring.

When the ice has melted, and March winds blow from the south, ducks and other waterfowl head north. Sometimes they stop on the Douglass Park lagoons for a day or a week before continuing their journeys.

Many birds that swim in Douglass Park’s lagoons are not ducks. Coots, for instance, are more closely related to chickens than ducks or geese. Grebes and cormorants are also not related closely to ducks or geese.

Back on land, blackbirds, like grackles and cowbirds, arrive at the park in March or even February. At least a few crows hang out in Douglass Park all winter long, but we sometimes see large flocks of the crows — “murders,” if you will — during early spring.

As the water warms in spring, Black-crowned Night-Herons and other wading birds can be seen hunting fish along the edges of the lagoons. Ring-billed Gulls are uncommon in the park during winter, but sometimes hundreds gather on the soccer fields or edges of the lagoon in spring. Shorebirds, like Killdeer and Wilson’s Snipe seem to prefer a muddy soccer field or puddles in the lawn to the vegetated margins of the lagoons.

More than a half dozen kinds of native sparrows stop in Douglass Park to search for food and, perhaps, take a bath in a puddle. Many Song Sparrows pass through the park each spring. A few find enough of what they like a spend the summer, nesting in the sanctuary meadows.

With so many spring birds in the park, identifying them all can be a challenge. Some birds have streaked breasts, like sparrows or thrushes, but are completely different sorts of birds. Female Red-winged Blackbirds and Eastern Meadowlarks may look like oversized sparrows, but they are really types of blackbirds. Brown Thrashers are related to mockingbirds and catbirds, not thrushes. And Northern Waterthrushes have both streaky breasts and a name to remind you of thrushes, but they are really a type of warbler.

At least three kinds of woodpeckers may spend the winter in Douglass Park, and two more pass through during spring migration. Northern Flickers are often seen eating ants on the newly greened lawns. Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers really do lap up sap from the holes they drill in trees.

Many warblers spend the winter in Central and South America, then stop by Douglass Park to eat bugs before continuing further north. Yellow-rumped and Palm Warblers arrive before the trees are full of leaves and spend more time on the ground. They are easier to see than the warblers that come later and feed high in leafed-out trees.

Besides warblers, there are many other small birds in the leafing out trees. If you go birding in Douglass Park this spring, be sure to look for kinglets, vireos, gnatcatchers, and waxwings.

Swallows and flycatchers fly in the open, catching insects on the wing. Several kinds of swallows pass through Douglass Park each spring, but Barn Swallows stay to nest and raise their young. Some years three kinds of flycatchers stay the summer. Eastern Kingbirds are the largest summer flycatcher in the park, and they nest here every year. Eastern Phoebes and Willow Flycatchers nest here some summers, but not others.

More than 40 kinds of birds can be seen at Douglass Park during the summer. Many of them nest and raise their young in the park. To see photos of some of them, go to