Monday, July 25, 2016

Birding Indiana

Situated near the heartland of America, Indiana extends from Lake Michigan to the Ohio River, from northern tamarack bogs to southern bald cypress swamps, from productive wetlands to extensive cropland, and from prairie grasslands to extensive mature forests. More than 413 bird species have been found in Indiana with 260 plus observed somewhere in the state each year. A wide variety of habitats provide for an annual breeding population of about 180 species.

Western species such as Smith’s Longspur, Lark Sparrow, and Bell’s Vireo extend their ranges into the western edge of the state, more southern species such as Black-necked Stilt, Mississippi Kite, Chuck-wills-widow, Fish Crow, Blue Grosbeak, and Black Vulture reach central and southern Indiana, northern species such as Northern Shrike, Snow Buntings and winter finches regularly invade, and northern breeders such as Sandhill Crane, Veery, Alder Flycatcher, Least Flycatcher, and Swamp Sparrow extend their range into Indiana.

The shores of Lake Michigan offer almost a “pelagic” experience in migration and winter with three jaeger species, Sabine’s Gull, Black-legged Kittiwake and more observed regularly. Migrant traps near the lake create a paradise for migrating passerines where finding thirty-plus species of warblers in a day is very “do-able”. State Fish and Wildlife areas throughout the state and Muscatatuck NWR provide ample opportunities to observe marshbirds and waterfowl including the largest concentration of Sandhill Cranes east of the Mississippi River (Jasper-Pulaski FWA). Grasslands at the Nature Conservancy’s Kankakee Sands in northwest IN, the reclaimed strip mine areas of the southwest, and Big Oaks NWR produce large numbers of grassland species such as Dickcissel, Blue Grosbeak, and the world’s largest population of Henslow’s Sparrow as well as Upland Sandpiper. The reclaimed wetlands of Goose Pond FWA in south-central Indiana is a hotspot for large numbers of waterfowl, marsh birds, shorebirds, and sparrows. The Hoosier National Forest covers much of south-central Indiana and is a haven for nesting neotropic migrants with significant populations of Wood Thrush, Worm-eating Warbler, and Hooded Warblers. River systems and reservoirs attract good numbers of Bald Eagles, especially in winter when a few Golden Eagles accompany them.

Overall Indiana offers new experiences for birders from all parts of the country.

Sandhill Cranes

Worm-eating Warbler