Meet the Stragglers of Spring Migration

There are a few bird species that are still finishing their spring migration. Use the Bird Migration Explorer to learn more about these tardy travelers.
Willow Flycatcher. Photo: Ryan Mandelbaum/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Spring in the Northern Hemisphere is a magical time when nature puts on a show like no other. The brilliance of spring migration is a sight to behold as neotropical migrants grace our backyards, fields, and woodlots with their radiant colors and melodious symphony. Flycatchers, vireos, warblers, and tanagers are the undeniable stars of this season. But as June rolls in, their migrations begin to fade, and the thrilling spectacle of peak migration becomes a distant memory, even as these species become our local breeders. By the middle of June, most North American migrants have settled into a different routine, dedicating themselves to raising their young and prioritizing the breeding cycle.

However, not all birds have reached their final destination by early June. Some tireless travelers are still on their last leg of the journey, arriving at the plentiful northern breeding grounds, whether it's the majestic Boreal Forest or our local woods, swamps, and fields. While the great waves of avian voyagers, including the charismatic warblers, typically complete their journey by June, keen observers can still catch glimpses of a few intrepid individuals making their way northward. Late-season flights by species like the Blackpoll Warbler have become legendary. And flycatchers such as Yellow-bellied, Willow, and Alder are known to arrive late in the season, even weeks after the peak warbler flight, especially in places like northern New England. So even though spring migration might seem like a thing of the past, with local birds focused on breeding, these steadfast latecomers add an extra touch of magnificence to the avian tapestry. Then there are the possibilities of early summer vagrants. Keep your eyes and ears open for these remarkable late migrants, as they remind us that nature's timetable is not always rigid, and surprises await those who keenly observe the ever-changing rhythms of the natural world.

Yellow-bellied Flycatcher. Photo: Andy Reago and Chrissy McClarren/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Now that the rush of migration has subsided take a moment to breathe and reflect on the glorious migrants of the past season. Imagine the vibrant warblers, adorned in a kaleidoscope of colors, embarking on an extraordinary odyssey spanning thousands of miles to reach their often remote breeding grounds. Picture elegant shorebirds like the Whimbrel seeking refuge along expansive coastal mudflats, diligently probing for sustenance to fuel their ongoing journey. Or marvel at the incredible resilience of the Ruby-throated Hummingbird, whose diminutive wings tirelessly carry it across the Gulf of Mexico, finding solace in the lush forests of the eastern United States or your neighborhood. These extraordinary birds carry amazing stories on their wings and are etched within their DNA. In putting ourselves in their shoes, thinking about their heroic journeys and the challenges we face, we cultivate a profound appreciation for the extraordinary journeys and destinies of these avian wonders adorning our skies.

Use the Bird Migration Explorer to see where your favorite birds are this time of year.