Many of Spring’s migrants, especially in March, are birds that came last fall and overwintered. As spring progresses, hormones spike, and many birds begin singing their species song and replacing their sometimes-muted winter plumage with much a brighter attire. April and May see a small trickle of lost, northbound migrants from the tropics en route to their North American breeding grounds which stretch from Florida and the Gulf Coast of Mexico to as far north as the Arctic. Some spring migrants, however, are annual breeders in Bermuda. Throughout spring, one can encounter, warblers, tanagers, swallows, gulls, terns, tropicbirds, jaegers, skuas, and pelicans, to name a few. 

White-tailed Tropicbird (Phaethon lepturus catesbyi)
It seemed inappropriate to write a spring bird article without mentioning white-tailed tropicbirds or “longtails,” fondly considered the harbinger of spring. The first longtails are spotted in February, but their islandwide presence across Bermuda’s rocky shores steadily increases throughout March, April and May. Our total nesting population comprises some 3,500 nesting pairs, which is greater than the combined number of this species across the entire Caribbean!  In Bermuda, longtails nest in pre-existing cliff holes across the rocky shoreline. Nesting pairs incubate single egg clutches for six weeks and rear their young to fledging for about ten to twelve weeks. Banding data has shown that many individuals return to nest in the same cavity, sometimes with the same partner, year after year. 

Lesser Black-backed Gull (Larus fuscus)
By far Bermuda’s most common wintering gull species or “seagull.” Their bright yellow bills and feet, coupled with their dark grey upperparts, make them readily identifiable. Despite being the most abundant gull species on the island, they’re actually European breeders, migrating from Britain, Greenland, Iceland and western Europe. In Bermuda, lesser black-backed gulls commonly hang out in bays, harbours, inlets and beaches; boat buoys seem to be their favourite perch. 

Herring Gull (Larus argentatus)
Herring Gulls breed in North America and western Europe; Bermuda receives the former race. They are larger than lesser black-backed gulls, with lighter grey upperparts and pink legs, and are noticeably less common in Bermuda. Herring gulls are well-known opportunists, using any means necessary to obtain a quick meal. There are several videos on YouTube, for example, of shoplifting herring gulls, with birds walking into a grocery store when the sliding doors open, grabbing packaged food from a nearby shelf and running out of the store when the door opens again! I photographed this one eating a tomato slice in St. George’s Harbour. 

Yellow-throated Vireo (Vireo flavifrons
This brightly coloured songbird is closely related to our local white-eyed vireo (Vireo griseus bermudianus) or “Chick-of-the-Village.” It breeds in southeastern Canada and eastern United States. Although silent for much of their winter residency on the island, male birds begin singing short, buzzy whistles from within thickets and woodlands. This vireo prefers feeding in stand-alone trees and bushes on open greenspace. Look for them in poincianas and casuarinas on lawns, parks, cemeteries and golf courses. 

Black-necked Stilt (Himantopus mexicanus
This small, pied shorebird stands 13–14 inches tall on bubblegum-pink legs. It has the second longest legs relative to its body size, surpassed only by flamingos! Black-necked stilts breed in the United States, Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean and northern South America. In Bermuda, usually one or two turn up every year or two on golf courses or rain-flooded lawns. 

Common Tern (Sterna hirundo
Like the longtail, common terns are another seabird that breeds annually in Bermuda. While common throughout its North American breeding range, this species is one of our rarest breeding birds and is critically endangered; as of 2023, the entire Bermuda population comprised eleven adults! Their biggest threat is hurricanes, which kill adults and chicks on their small, flat, rocky nesting islets which can become overwashed or submerged during the height of storms. Mariners beware, terns attack and relentlessly purse trespassers with dive-bombs, defecation and ear-piercing alarm calls! 

Magnolia Warbler (Setophaga magnolia
This songbird belongs to the North American wood-warbler family, small insectivorous songbirds with long, “warbling” songs with most species having some degree of yellow feathering. There are about fifty species of wood-warblers in North America, and just over half of them have been recorded on the island. In Bermuda, look for magnolia warblers in any wooded habitats, especially Ferry Reach and Spittal Pond. The earliest specimen was collected from a magnolia tree in Mississippi in 1810 which gives the bird its common name.

Brown Pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis
This pelican hails from coastlines across the United States, Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean. They acquire food with ungraceful, shallow plunge dives, and are only one of two pelican species to acquire food in this manner!  I photographed this individual at Shelly Bay Beach.