Get Out Your Binoculars: Fall Bird Migration Begins

Each year as summer turns into fall, you can spot migrating songbirds (including many warblers), shorebirds, and waterfowl traveling through Cuyahoga Valley National Park as they journey south for the winter. Although their plumage isn’t quite as bright as during the spring migration, there are still plenty of gorgeous birds to see. Here are a few of our favorite fall migrants and where to spot them:


Black-Throated Green Warbler

The black-throated green warbler has a bright yellow face, black throat, olive crown and back, white belly, and two white wingbars. These bright birds feed primarily on insects and insect larvae, so you can frequently find them hopping around on tree branches, looking for food. They sometimes also hover in mid-air to pluck insects from leaves and branches.

Look for black-throated green warblers in woodlands, particularly near wetlands, such as near Beaver Marsh and along the Towpath Trail toward Ira Trailhead.


Blackpoll Warbler 

A relatively small songbird, the blackpoll warbler has an olive-green crown, nape, and upperparts streaked with black. In the fall, they lack the black cap present during breeding season, so look for the broad white wingbars.

Part of the blackpoll warbler’s fall migratory route is over the Atlantic Ocean from the northeastern United States to Puerto Rico, the Lesser Antilles, or northern South America. This route can be nearly 2,000 miles over water, requiring a potentially nonstop flight of up to 88 hours!

You can find these small birds in a variety of forest, woodland, scrub, and brushy habitats, such as Station Road Bridge, Oak Hill Trailhead, and the Wetmore Trail system.


Wood Duck 

Male wood ducks are chestnut and green with bright white markings. Females have a distinctive crested profile and delicate white pattern around the eye. These waterfowl are present in CVNP during the summer, but their numbers increase dramatically during the fall. Sometimes you can see as many as 20 wood ducks congregating in one spot!

Visit the park in the early morning to see flocks on their way south, especially once we get into October. You’re mostly likely to spot them in wetland areas and ponds, such as around Indigo Lake, Beaver Marsh, and Stumpy Basin.


Yellow-Rumped Warbler   

Yellow-rumped warblers are fairly large, full-bodied warblers with a large head, sturdy bill, and long, narrow tail. They are perhaps the most versatile foragers of all warblers. You’re might see them fluttering out from a tree to catch a flying insect, but in the fall, they’re quick to switch over to eating berries.

You can see yellow-rumped warblers in open areas with fruited shrubs or scattered trees, such as along the Towpath Trail north of the Boston Store Visitor Center.

The park hosts a number of fall bird walks where you can join a park ranger to view migrating warblers and other species in the Cuyahoga Valley, including the fall bird census this Saturday (September 16, 7:30 a.m. at NPS Park Headquarters). Check out the park’s Schedule of Events for more information. See you out in the park!


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