Midsummer offers a much different birdwatching experience compared to spring or fall. For example, the many migrating species that use our region as merely a rest-stop have moved on by this time. Therefore most of the birds you can expect to find out and about during midsummer aren’t going anywhere because they are here to build a home and raise a family.
Foliage is another factor that affects a birdwatcher’s strategy. Finding birds in the summer requires more listening than looking, as many of our summer species like to hide in the upper reaches of trees or are masked by the now dense growth of plants. Fortunately, many of these friends have very distinct voices and an outsized volume for how tiny they are. Digital guide apps are a major plus as they allow you to compare the sounds you hear directly with confirmed observations and without needing to guess what a guide might mean by “ethereal.”
The birds we see most often this time of year are those that frequent our feeders or prefer to live near humans. It would be a stretch to call them domesticated, but many bird species have learned to flock around humans because we leave out tasty meals for them or have made them homes near ours. Other oft-spotted avians are the soarers that spend most of their time in flight looking for food. They use several forms of lift-producing air currents to travel, including thermals—regions of warmer air that rise faster than their surroundings—and updrafts—air forced over mountains and other large pieces of terrain.
Bird Finding Tips:
Try to locate the source of the bird call before looking through binoculars or scopes
Keep your eyes looking at the location while raising the binoculars or moving eyepieces
Remain quiet and still, patience pays off when watching for birds
Have a field guide or birding app nearby to match what you see and hear in real life with illustrations and recordings
Mark frequently used pages in field guides or apps to make finding them easier in the moment
If bird behaviors change suddenly, look for predators like cats or hawks
Some of the more common birds you can find are detailed below. They are broken into two groups based on where you are most likely to see them: out about in the forest or otherwise away from homes and buildings, and near suburban areas with lots of feeders and nest boxes.
Red-eyed Vireos are one of the most plentiful summer forest birds. They are incredibly difficult to spot as they prefer to hang out in the very tops of the trees in summer and are camouflaged with green and white coloration. Despite their tendency to hide, they are easily the most vocal soundtrack in the summer woods with individual males singing 20,000 or more times a day. Their call is similar to a robin’s, but the habitat you’re in can help you decipher between the two. If you hear what sounds like a robin in the woods, it is likely a Red-eyed Vireo.
With a call that can be heard over hundreds of yards, ovenbirds are the rock stars of the bird world. Despite their big voices, they are tiny in size and weigh about half as much as a tennis ball (about 1 oz.). Their distinctive “Teacher-Teacher-Teacher” increases in volume over the course of the song. Their loud voice makes their tiny body a little easier to spot as it flits about under the cover of closed forest canopy. Males will often sing in pairs or small groups, though, so differentiating an individual bird can be a little trickier from a distance.
Step outside in the early morning or evening for a chance to hear the distinctive call of a Wood Thrush as it lilts from deep in the woods. If ovenbirds are rockstars singing the hits, then the wood thrush is a church chorister producing a three-part cantata. Truly a songbird, the many flutelike notes produced by the wood thrush come from two different vocal structures enabling them to produce two harmonizing notes at the same time. They are mostly vocal in the limited light of dawn and dusk, so it can be tricky to find them in their preferred habitat of dense trees.