Developing at the end of the bird’s first winter season, the red iris is what gives this small songbird its name. Although sometimes difficult to decipher unless you are intimately close to the bird, it is their song that has the ability of not only entrancing birders from all walks of life but also makes the bird relatively easy to recognize by ear.
These transcontinental migrants use their magnetic compass to guide them on their migration pathways and when it comes to crossing the daunting Gulf of Mexico, the route they take often depends on the size of the bird. When they encounter the Gulf, it is their available fat stores that ultimately determine which path they will take. Typically, fatter birds will make the trip smack dab through the middle of the Gulf, while their leaner counterparts will hug the shoreline or even head inland while traversing the expansive body of water.