Weather and Songbird Migration: February 29, 2012
Dr. David Aborn, ornithologist
Dr. David Aborn

Dear Students:

Migration has officially begun! I saw my first Tree Swallow over the weekend, and report of other migrants have been coming in across the southern half of the US. Tree Swallows, Northern Rough-winged Swallows and Purple Martins have been seen in Alabama, Mississippi, and Georgia. Barn Swallows have arrived in Louisiana. People in Louisiana have also reported their first Ruby-throated Hummingbirds of the year. In addition to hummingbirds, birders in Texas have also seen some of the early arriving warblers, namely Yellow-throated Warblers and Northern Parulas. Birders out West should get ready too, as Cliff Swallows and Northern Rough-winged Swallows have been returning in California.

What Can We Expect This Week?
So will these early arrivals be able to fly farther north, and what can new arrivals expect? I hope those birds like it where they are, because looking at the weather map it seems that they won’t get very far.

  • A cold front is moving across the country right now. That system has already brought strong storms to the Midwest, and is predicted to do the same in the south today and the east tomorrow. That will keep birds grounded for a day.
  • The front does not have strong winds behind it, so once the storms clear, migrants will have about a day to get moving before another cold front rolls across the country at the end of the week. That second system will have much stronger north winds behind it, so migrants will find poor flying conditions for a couple of days after the front passes.

Get Ready For New Arrivals Ahead
As I mentioned last week, it is too early to expect large numbers of migrants to be forced down by these systems, but it is still the same type of weather that can create large fallouts later on. My Tree Swallow sighting has gotten me excited about what is to come, and you can be sure I will be looking for more new arrivals—And you should be too!

Take Care.

David Aborn
North Chickamauga Creek Conservancy
Chattanooga, TN