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  • Pennsylvania Bird Identification

    Pennsylvania Bird Identification
    According to numbers cited by the Pennsylvania Game Commission website, there are reports of as many as 430 species of birds in the state. This large number represents almost half of all known bird species that inhabit North America, making Pennsylvania an excellent bird-watching destination. The various environments that include mountains, rivers, large lakeshores and tidal plains insure a diverse bird population. Birding year-round is possible, and identifying these creatures is an exciting pastime.


    Difficulty: Moderately Challenging

    Things You’ll Need:
    • Field Guide to Pennsylvania birds Binoculars
    • Field Guide to Pennsylvania birds
    • Binoculars
    Step 1
    Purchase a reliable guide to the birds in Pennsylvania. Two solid ones are "Birds of Pennsylvania Field Guide" by Stan Tekiala and "National Geographic Field Guide to Birds: Pennsylvania" by Jonathan Alderfer. Having a guide to the birds in the state helps you to avoid thumbing through a guide full of species not typically found in Pennsylvania. Keep a field guide by the window from where you can view your bird feeder, and bring it with you on birding excursions.
    Step 2
    Concentrate your birding efforts on your bird feeder, open patches of water and in and around fields surrounded with woodlands. Species such as juncos, crows, woodpeckers, blue jays, chickadees, cardinals and nuthatches stay in Pennsylvania despite the cold. They frequent backyards and open fields. Avoid the northwestern portion of Pennsylvania for bird watching since it typically gets heavy snowfall, not conducive to large populations of wintering birds.
    Step 3
    Watch for returning species such as the cowbird, red-winged blackbird, grackle and many types of hawks in March as winter starts to break. There are many opportunities to find and identify raptors, with large numbers of various hawk species coming through on the way north. Lake Erie usually provides the birder with many chances to see hawks and many types of waterfowl such as herons, geese, ducks and shorebirds coming back from down South.
    Step 4
    Circle May on your calendar as one of Pennsylvania's top months to find and recognize birds. This is the height of the migration north or to parts of Pennsylvania for a multitude of songbirds such as orioles, warblers, sparrows, vireos, thrushes, finches and swallows. Invest in various programs that help you to identify birdsongs, since leaves in the trees often obscure a bird from view, but still allow you to hear it.
    Step 5
    Station yourself along a river in late summer and scan the terrain for birds. Herons and other waders such as bitterns and egrets will move northward from southerly parts to catch fish in the rivers and streams, at their lowest point this time of year. You can watch the riverbanks for them, along with species such as swallows and martins that catch insects over the water in preparation for their early journeys southward.
    Step 6
    Plan a visit to Hawk Mountain near Kempton in midautumn to view many birds of prey heading south. Raptors such as golden eagles, Cooper's hawks, merlins, kestrels, peregrine falcons and vultures will invariably pass through this area. Use the eight miles of trails and bring a good pair of binoculars to identify soaring birds that use this migration route.
    Step 7
    Stay alert on a walk through the autumn woods to identify the ruffed grouse--Pennsylvania's state bird. You will hear it long before you see it as the bird will remain motionless on the ground until it decides it must fly away as you near. Do not be startled by the whirring of wings that sounds like a miniature thunderstorm as the bird takes off. Spot the bird quickly if possible and follow it, since grouse cannot fly long distances and normally will alight on the ground or in a tree close by.

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