Weather and Songbird Migration: April 5, 2017
By Dr. David Aborn

Bottled Up Birds Make Good Birding
Indigo bunting
Indigo bunting
John Flannery (CC BY-SA 2.0)

White-eyed vireo

White-eyed vireo
J.Montejo (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Townsend's warbler  
Townsend's warbler
Julio Mulero(CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Weather Map
Weather Map
Ornithologist Dr. David Aborn  

Dear Journey North,

The weather has been very active this week, and it has definitely affected bird migration. There have been back-to-back rounds of storms; the system I talked about last week and one moving across the country now. All the rain has meant birds have not been able to make much progress.

Weather Breaks, Then Bottles Up
There was a small break over the weekend, which has allowed the first Gray Catbirds to show up in New York and Ohio, and I heard my first White-eyed Vireos here in Chattanooga. At Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge in Ohio, one birder counted 185 Tree Swallows!

By the beginning of this week, the current cold front was moving across the country, and it has bottled up migrants along the Gulf coast. In Louisiana, Eastern Kingbirds, Prothonotary Warblers, Swainson’s Warblers, Indigo Buntings, Baltimore Orioles, and Red-eyed Vireos are all being seen.

Migration Better in West
Things have been better the past few days out west. As you can see on the weather map, the high pressure has moved far enough east that the winds are coming from the south. At Mittry Lake in Arizona, there were 200 Tree Swallows and 160 Cliff Swallows!

There have been many sightings in California, especially the San Francisco area, where six different warblers were seen, including the first Yellow Warblers and Townsend’s Warblers, along with Ash-throated Flycatchers. The southerly winds have pushed Yellow Warblers and Orange-crowned Warblers as far as Washington.

Strong Front, Then What?
If we can get through the next couple of days, the weather should get better for both people and migrating birds. That front that is moving into the eastern U.S. is a very strong one; here in Chattanooga, we were 80 degrees yesterday, but will only be in the 50’s tomorrow! There may even be up to 6 inches of snow in the Smokies! With all the storms and strong north winds behind them, migrants won’t be able to do much flying.

It looks like there might be calmer weather for a while after that. Just like out west, once the high pressure moves east, birds will have clear skies and southerly winds, so I expect there will be a lot of movement over the weekend and early next week.

Migration will continue to increase in the coming weeks, so make sure you get out there and see it!

Take care,

  • David Aborn
    North Chickamauga Creek Conservancy
    Chattanooga, TN
Next Update: April 12, 2017