If you're looking for a sign of spring, don't limit yourself to the American Robin. (Besides, it turns out not all of them go south for the winter!) To get the full picture, keep your eyes and ears open to all songbirds. Spring is the time they transform their lives, moving from their winter flocks to pairing off with mates so they can get down to the business of laying eggs.

Song of the Winter Songbird

Even though there is still snow on the ground, you might hear winter birds, such as the Black-capped Chickadee or Northern Cardinal, already breaking into their springtime song, which is associated with choosing a mate and a home. Even with the freezing temperatures, the lengthening days give these birds a cue that it’s time to start their spring work: Find a mate, find a site, build a nest, and lay the eggs. By the time their first brood hatches, it should be warm enough to find food to feed them.

Drumming of the Woodpecker

Instead of carrying a tune, woodpeckers drum. Hammering away on the bark of a tree is not just a way to get insects. They use the sound to communicate with other woodpeckers, whether they’re attracting a mate or putting rivals on notice that their nesting site is chosen. When they send messages in the spring, they may turn to other instruments besides trees, such as house siding, drainpipes, and metal chimneys.

Migratory Birds Return

As we move deeper into that springtime feeling, you'll see the return of the long-distance migrators, such as the Baltimore Orioles, grosbeaks, warblers, and Purple Martins. As soon as they return, they get right to work establishing their nesting areas and start looking for a mate.

For an amazing tool that illustrates the migration paths of many species, check out this map from our friends at AllAboutBirds.org. Each species is numbered and identified.

And before long, you'll hear that loud chorus of birds at dawn! During the spring, even as food supplies are emerging, keep your feeders full, or you’ll miss out on the spring rush. Migration and nesting are physically demanding on birds. Help them stay energized by setting out a high-energy, nutritious seed, such as Lyric Fine Tunes Wild Bird Mix

The Rose-breasted Grosbeak is a long-distant migrant that returns to the U.S. to breed. iStock/Thinkstock