Migrant Bird Arrivals

by Carl Strang

Today I conclude my review of early season phenology by considering arrival dates of migrant birds at Mayslake Forest Preserve. A few of these data are from late February, most are from March.

The eastern phoebe usually begins to arrive in March. This year, the first phoebe appeared at Mayslake 6 days earlier than in 2011, 11 days earlier than in 2010, and 9 days earlier than in 2009.

Bird arrival dates did not show quite the dramatic differences from previous years as did first flower dates or first insect appearances. Nevertheless, birds were showing up early in February and March. Relative to 2011, 16 bird species appeared a median 4.5 days early in 2012 (range 23 days earlier to 21 days later). The difference was larger in comparison to 2010: 15 bird species arrived a median 11 days earlier (range 0-31 days earlier). Finally, 16 bird species appeared a median 3 days earlier in 2012 than in 2009 (range 9 days earlier to 13 days later).

So far, the birds we are seeing are species that spent the winter in the southern U.S. They are expected to be much more responsive to weather conditions than the tropical migrants, which could not know about the early season. Therefore I expect differences in arrival dates to diminish as the migration season progresses.


  1. Lesa Hipes said,

    April 8, 2012 at 10:39 am

    Guess that means I still have to wait a bit for the warblers(other than yellow rumped) to come on up north!
    I am happy to hear the phoebes. The bike path under 294 has a pair of phoebes talking and hanging nearby.
    I don’t keep records, but I am glad you and others do.
    Looking forward to the talk that Stotz(sp?) is giving next thursday.

    • natureinquiries said,

      April 10, 2012 at 6:00 am

      Thanks Lesa,
      It will be interesting to see what if any effect we can see on those tropical migrants. Of course, with everything leafing out so early, seeing them in the first place may be the challenge!

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