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Early Arrival Dates & Climate Change

3-4-16 A. robin IMG_8347As yesterday’s post indicated, the progression in which signs of spring appear remains much the same, but the timing of this progression is changing. Ornithologists have determined that modern climate change has resulted in an advancement of spring phenology throughout the Northern Hemisphere.

Many birds are arriving on their breeding grounds earlier in response to these changing conditions. Past research has focused on correlating climatic changes on breeding grounds with early arrival. However, it appears that climate variability on the wintering grounds of temperate species also plays a part in these short-distance migrants’ arrival on their breeding grounds.

Many climatic factors are involved in this phenomenon. The annual variation in temperature on the wintering grounds of American robins was found to be strongly related to their first-arrival date. Red-winged blackbirds’ first arrival dates were most influenced by precipitation during winter and spring months.

These and other changes in migratory patterns can have life or death consequences — birds arriving early on their breeding grounds face the possibility of adverse conditions and limited resources.

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6 responses

  1. Dale

    Yes, the red wing blackbirds have arrived and we saw our first robin yesterday

    March 9, 2016 at 7:07 am

  2. Robert Spencer

    I heard an Eastern Phoebe today. Very early arrival here in Western Maine.

    March 9, 2016 at 11:03 am

  3. Don’t a lot of robins actually winter in place? Which makes me wonder when doing studies they would know if they are seeing birds which have just been out of sight, eating their winter diet, moving out to get their spring diet rather than having migrated? This would tell about the area they have lived in all year rather than one they migrated to & from. Or are they studying banded birds? Or could it be that migration paths somehow connect places where weather patterns correlate?

    Just thinking, as the snow & ice begins to melt here (maybe until next fall, but the weather we’ve had this year — alternating warmth & snow — makes me wonder if we still have another snow storm or 2 before we can put away the shovels).

    March 9, 2016 at 10:33 pm

    • You’re right about robins overwintering here…they were banding studies!

      March 11, 2016 at 5:26 pm

      • Ah, thank you! Of course!!! Not sure why I had an image in my head of folks just looking out & counting the robins they saw.

        In any case, I’m looking forward to seeing them here, whether they are the locals getting back to worms & such, or the migrants. Today our spotted field of white has larger patches of tan, like the side of a great piebald pony.

        March 12, 2016 at 1:11 pm

  4. Bill Farr

    I had my 1st Robin (s) observation yesterday 3/13/16 here in the highlands of Corinth, Vermont. I counted 6 of them and they weren’t moving around much. It is always a good sign when they arrive, nicer weather just around the corner now…

    March 14, 2016 at 8:30 am

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