when do birds start migrating

What is a migrant trap?

when do birds start migrating

Certain locations appear to possess a talent for drawing migrant birds in greater quantities than usual. These “migrant traps” often become well known as birding hotspots. Usually, the local topography, an abundance of food, or the weather are to blame for this.

For instance, tiny songbirds that are migrating north in the spring cross the Gulf of Mexico straight and land on the states that border it. When headwinds are brought on by storms or cold fronts, these birds may be almost exhausted by the time they reach land. When this occurs, they flee to the closest area that provides food and shelter, which is usually live oak groves on barrier islands, where a large number of migrants can congregate in what is referred to as a “fallout.” Birdwatchers have taken a great interest in these migration traps, and they have even gained international recognition.

Additionally, as migratory birds follow the land and then pause before launching over water, peninsulas can concentrate them. This explains why areas with a strong reputation as migration hotspots include Point Pelee, Ontario; the Florida Keys; Point Reyes, California; and Cape May, New Jersey.

For those who feed birds in their backyard, spring migration is a particularly good time to attract species they would not typically see. Migrating songbirds may find a backyard appealing if it provides water, a range of food sources, and natural food sources integrated into the landscaping.

When do Birds Migrate?

The migration seasons for birds in North America are late summer through fall and late winter through spring. Most bird migrations travel in a north-south direction, but some species, like oceanic birds, can migrate in a circular manner.

It is hard to pinpoint the precise dates of bird migration because there are so many different bird species that migrate to and from North America. It would be inaccurate to claim that all White-throated Sparrows begin migrating around September 10 because most bird species have extensive summer ranges. Why? Their summer range includes millions of acres in Canada. So, does migration really begin when they cross that range’s southern boundary, or does it just start when they take off southward?

Alternatively, it is easiest to propose that fall migration departures happen in waves, beginning in Canada’s northern latitudes in late summer and continuing into the fall.

The dates of spring bird migration are rarely set in stone, much like those of fall migration. Rather, the timing of their departures is frequently determined by the state of the weather, the availability of food, and the growing rivalry for scarce resources. We humans haven’t discovered all of the other migration triggers, so there probably are a lot more!

Because it can be difficult to pinpoint dates, we have created this useful map that shows the various zones and important times for spring and fall migration.

Most birds migrate along landmasses, so they will follow them. This instinct often creates hotspots in the U. S. and Canada, where a vast array of species are concentrated in a tiny area.

This means that during migration, bird watchers frequently favor peninsulas and barrier islands. As birds make lengthy migrations in search of water, more hotspots appear. This activity creates bird-viewing opportunities at lakes, marshes and rivers. Along the southern coasts of the United States is another hotspot in North America. S. Birds gather there to recuperate after crossing the Gulf of Mexico or to rest and eat before continuing across it.

If backyard birders are fortunate enough to reside close to one of these hotspots, they may notice a buzz of activity coming from their feeders as birds pass by!

Do All Birds Migrate?

Not all North American bird species migrate, but a significant percentage do so in the spring and fall.

Those that migrate will journey to their seasonal range, which may be thousands of miles distant in certain circumstances. The birds that travel on these trips may find them to be lengthy and taxing. This explains why, prior to embarking on their migration, birds spend so much of their time storing energy. They wouldn’t be able to travel as far or arrive in reasonably good shape without those reserves!

Some migratory flights might only span a few hundred miles, which is sufficient to avoid a severe winter or to relocate to a better breeding location. Some species will simply move to a different elevation; for example, they will leave their mountaintop territories in the winter to live in valleys that provide better protection from the cold and greater access to food.

These short-distance migrants may be regarded as resident birds in your particular area. A species may be classified as a migrant in some parts of the continent but a year-round resident in your area. If the Northern Cardinal in your area returns to that area in the spring, it’s definitely migrating, but who’s to say it didn’t travel 500 miles south in the fall to avoid a hard winter?

In light of this, keep in mind that the definition of a migratory bird should be viewed as extremely flexible. As a passionate bird feeder, you shouldn’t worry too much about it as long as you remember to replenish your feeders and waterers during the important migration seasons in your region!


What time of year do birds come back?

Naturally, the timing of migration depends a lot on how far south or north you are—but February and early March usually bring the first returning birds.

How long does it take for a bird to migrate?

The amount of time birds spend migrating also varies by individual. Some of the birds we have tracked have taken several weeks to complete their journey, while others make the trip in less than one week. Some catbirds even stop for a long time before completing their migration.

How can you tell if birds are migrating?

This “migration anxiety” makes them seem hyperactive and antsy, particularly in the evenings or during the night, moving around or breaking into song for no reason at all. Their sleep patterns are changing.

What time of day do small birds generally migrate?

Most birds migrate at night. The stars and the moon aid night-flying birds’ navigation. Free of daytime thermals, the atmosphere is more stable, making it easier to maintain a steady course, especially for smaller birds such as warblers that might fly as slowly as 15 miles per hour.