Aspiring birders, here are the birds to spot in New England now

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A black-capped chickadee flies up from a snowy field as it comes in for a landing on a feeder in West Bath, Maine in March of 2009. (Pat Wellenbach/AP)
A black-capped chickadee flies up from a snowy field as it comes in for a landing on a feeder in West Bath, Maine in March of 2009. (Pat Wellenbach/AP)

Spring has sprung here in New England. It's a big season for birds, both those who visiting on their way north and others who make the region their home year-round.

Neil Hayward is a lifelong birder, serves on the board of the Brookline Bird Club and the American Birding Association, and is author of the book “Lost Among the Birds: Accidentally Finding Myself in One Very Big Year." According to him, six popular birds you'll be able to see and hear now and this spring are: the Northern Cardinal, the Black-capped Chickadee, the Chimney Swift, the Baltimore Oriole, the Blackburnian Warbler, and the Red-eyed Vireo.

Hayward joined WBUR's Radio Boston to discuss birding in the region, now that the weather is finally, begrudgingly starting to cooperate.

Below are highlights from their conversation, which have been lightly edited.

Interview Highlights:

On the Black-capped Chickadee, the state bird of Massachusetts:

"Listening is the best way to find them. And they're singing now, the males are singing that descending whistle [song]. They're pretty small at about five-and-a-quarter inches long. So a bit smaller than your cell phone. And they weigh about two dimes. These are tiny birds ... they've been with us the whole winter. And you may have heard them calling during the winter with that 'chicka-de-de-de.' "

On what happens during the annual spring migration of birds:

"This is a really special time of year for birdwatchers. Migration involves about three-and-a-half billion birds crossing into the U.S. from Mexico, South and Central America. And Massachusetts is a great place to see many of those, especially warblers. We have about 35 different species of warbler. These are about 5 inches long, and they come in a bewildering array of colors and different songs. And for many of us, that's the highlight of spring migration."

On how the timing of migration works, and how climate change has impacted that:

"There's a there's a real balance in terms of getting it too early or too late. Birds want to get here and set up territories and breed. If they get here too early, then there's no food for them and they'll die. If they get here too late, then all the best territories have gone to that they're trying to time that. And interestingly, that's something that sort of clockwork mechanism has been affected by climate change. It's thought that every decade now birds are arriving 1 to 2 days earlier than they have in the past. And that's because trees are blossoming earlier. Insects are coming out earlier, better nesting earlier than they have in the past. And also birds are expanding their ranges northward. [The] Northern Cardinal ... that's a bird that was a rarity in Massachusetts. We think of them as these birds that we see all the time. Really, the only that the first record of a breeding cardinal in Massachusetts was 1961, in Wellesley, before which they were really rare. Now they're everywhere, they've expanded their range up the East Coast, up into northern New England."

On the best places to spot birds:

"They're looking to refuel on their way north. So they're looking for any trees that have insects and caterpillars blossoming and leaving. Oak trees are great places to see them. And the more, the better. If you can go to cemeteries such as Mount Auburn Cemetery or Forest Hills, parks like Franklin Park, Boston Public Common, Old Arboretum and Reservoir, Chestnut Hill Reservoir, Fresh Pond, all those are great places to see some of these birds."

This segment aired on April 26, 2022.

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Amanda Beland Senior Producer
Amanda Beland is a producer and director for Radio Boston. She also reports for the WBUR newsroom.


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Tiziana Dearing Host, Radio Boston
Tiziana Dearing is the host of Radio Boston.



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