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Categorized | Outdoors

Where has all the birdsong gone?

Front view of a lesser yellowlegs bird, with a tan to dark brown color dotted with white, thin, yellow orange legs standing in shallow water.
Lesser Yellowlegs

You may have noticed over your morning cup of coffee or tea that more birds are flitting from tree to flower to ground in search of food and water. It also might strike you how quiet these birds are compared to the morning chorus common in May and June.

At the end of July, most chicks have fledged, meaning they have left the nest. Birds are most abundant now compared to other times of the year as fledglings join the ranks of their parents. Most adults stop singing—no longer defending their territories or in search of mates–and are busy rearing their young and teaching them how to find their own food before they fly south for the winter.

As birdsong quiets down, it can leave those of us who cherish the dawn choir longing for more. The good news is that with diminished birdsong comes the arrival of migratory Arctic shorebirds that only visit Michigan during their incredible journeys to and from their wintering grounds.

Most of these shorebirds breed in arctic tundra—some as far west as Alaska and others as far east as Russia—giving them some of the longest migrations! Some shorebirds, like the pectoral sandpiper, migrate to Argentina and Chile and have a round-trip flight of up to 19,000 miles each year. The least sandpiper, meanwhile, can fly nonstop for up to 2,500 miles.

The best places to look for these incredible travelers include coastal mudflats, rocky or sandy shorelines, and some inland habitats like flooded fields, wet meadows, and muddy edges of wetlands, lakes and ponds.

Here are some shorebirds to expect over the next few months in Michigan:

August and September


Least sandpiper

Pectoral sandpiper

Semipalmated sandpiper

Solitary sandpiper

Short-billed dowitcher

Greater yellowlegs

Lesser yellowlegs


August, September and October

Stilt sandpiper

Black-bellied plover

American golden-plover

Possible sightings in August and September

Ruddy turnstone

Red knot

Wilson’s phalarope

Red-necked phalarope

Learn more about Michigan’s birds on the DNR birding page, or from MI Birds, a public outreach and engagement program created by Audubon Great Lakes and the Michigan DNR. Follow on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter and sign up for email updates.

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