'Tis the Season for Snowbirds

With winter nearing, snowbirds flock to Florida’s tropical climate to escape the frigid months ahead.  Birds and people alike are amongst those who migrate south in fall for the abundance of resources that the tropics has to offer, year-round.

There are four common types of bird behaviors that take into consideration the various distances traveled.  Permanent residents find adequate supplies of food year-round and do not migrate; short-distance migrants travel short distances such as higher to lower elevations on a cliffside; medium-distance migrants travel distances that span from one to various states; and long-distance migrants typically move North to South spanning over various countries, from Canada and the United States to Central and South America. Despite the strenuous journeys involved, long-distance migration is an attribute of some 350 species of North American birds.

Short-distance migration likely developed from the search for food, while the origins of long-distance migration patterns consider factors that are more complex.  These long-distance migratory patterns have evolved over thousands of years and take the genetic makeup of the birds into account.  Long-distance migration also incorporates responses to geography, weather, food sources, and daylight.  Migrating birds often span over thousands of miles in their annual travels, following the same course year after year with little to no deviation.

Various species of birds pass over Florida during fall migration, in the months of September, October, and November.  While many species will extend their stay for the wintery months that follow.  The black-throated blue warbler and the American golden-plover are amongst those who travel through the state during fall migration, while the black-and-white warbler and American white pelican reside in Florida for the winter months.  Every winter, 25,000 migratory sandhill cranes land on Florida soil.  These cranes migrate in large groups and draw attention with the sounds of their distinctive calls that can be heard for a half-mile away.  With the variety of species that travel through the state or stay for a while, winter is an exceptionally great time to go birding in Florida with rich bird life spanning over the entire state.  Join Gumbo Limbo for our monthly program, Early Birding with Al, to learn more about Florida’s Snowbirds!

black and white speckled bird on a tree.

From: Hammock Happenings, January - February 2020

By: Ariana McGuire, Environmental Educator (former)

Category Tag(s): Nature Blog