A Challenging Week for Migrating Birds

April 17, 2019 by By David Aborn

It has been a very active week in weather and for migration.

“Winter storm, we had to make a new shelter. Fox sparrow and Chipping Sparrow arrived today. Also here White-throated sparrow,Tree sparrow,Juncos and Cardinal.” Photo submitted by: Carla (Altura, MN; 04/11/2019)

Dear Journey North members,

It has been a very active week in weather and for migration. A strong cold front moved across continental U.S. Snow fell in some northern states while rain fell in southern and eastern states. This weather system affected both people and birds over the past few days.

My weather report was very different two weeks ago. Then, the weather system was favorable to songbird migration with southerly winds and clear skies in eastern U.S. and clear skies in the western region of the U.S.

For example, at my study site in Tennessee, I saw my first Common Yellowthroat, Golden-winged Warbler, Hooded Warblers, Ovenbirds, and Chimney Swifts. Other people have seen the first Indigo Buntings and Rose-breasted Grosbeaks. The good flying weather, also allowed Yellow Warblers and Chimney Swifts to make it to Pennsylvania and West Virginia, while Prairie Warblers and Black-throated-green Warblers were seen as far north as New York.

Arizona birders saw an assortment of migrants, including Western Kingbirds, Lazuli Buntings, Yellow Warblers, Lucy’s Warblers, Wilson’s Warblers, Bell’s Vireos, and eight species of hummingbirds! Birders in California were also treated to quite a few migrants, especially Cassin’s, Hutton’s, and Warbling Vireos.

The good flying weather did not last long. As you can see by the weather map, this past week’s storm system coupled with a new storm system emerging next week created and will create poor flying conditions, especially over the Rockies. The songbirds will not be flying far for several days. There is a small window of opportunity. In the central U.S., toward the end of this week, weather conditions will be improve. There should be a lot of movement along the Gulf coast and into the Midwest and Great Plains over the next day or two – but then the new storm system brewing will shut migration down again. In the eastern U.S., we are still feeling the effects of the last cold front, but winds are due to shift to the south starting tomorrow which will give migrating birds  a chance to make some progress north before this next storm system arrives at the end of the week.

This weekend is a BioBlitz at the Chattanooga Nature Center. A BioBlitz is an intensive 24-hour survey of ALL the biodiversity in an area. Teams will be looking for many different organisms from mammals and reptiles to insects, fungi, and plants. I am in charge of the bird crew, so next week I can let you know what we saw!

Take care.

David Aborn