Snowbirds Love Warmth of Southern Places — People & Feathered Friends Alike

Many escape cold weather elsewhere, flying south.

Florida’s famously known for being a snowbird magnet. The Sunshine State’s “pull force” is strong. It draws northerners south to enjoy warmth during winter. Not to mention the lure of Florida’s beaches, year round golf and other attributes that attract hordes of people.

However, it’s not just humans who regularly escape northern places, ditching the freezing, snowy weather elsewhere. Many species of feathered friends do the same.

Spring’s Annual Bird Migration

The Sunshine State is a popular stop along the Atlantic Flyway. Amelia Island is the most northeastern coastal spot in Florida (literally at the Georgia border). But it’s not the final winter destination for some migrants — those that drop in, but then continue on journeys further south. However, other seasonal migrants do stick around for a few months spending the winter here.

Baltimore Orioles do not winter on Amelia Island, but instead are passing by this northeast Florida barrier island. It’s lucky to sight them during a local pit stop. As pictured here, some have begun their springtime journey. They’ve already departed places further south, now on their way back north.

Baltimore Oriole Birdbath, photo Amelia Island Living magazine. January 26, 2022.
Baltimore Oriole Taking a Dip, Amelia Island, FL (Jan. 26, 2022)
Three’s A Charm

Pictured below is the threesome who arrived together for a dip in a backyard birdbath and adjacent fountain, plus quenched their thirst. The Orioles freshened up, staying for six minutes on January 26, 2022, before departing. The female seemed to enjoy bathing the most, becoming quite drenched (as seen above). It was interesting to see the variation of plumage.

There’s not much uncertainty identifying an adult male Baltimore Oriole with its brilliant orange plumage and deep black accents. As far as the adult male’s two companions, it appeared one was an adult female. The third had more muted plumage and black bib, seemingly an immature male.

While some folks try to attract Orioles by putting out oranges cut in half and/or grape jelly, the threesome seen here on this day had not been lured by such. According to the Cornell Lab (All About Birds), “in spring and fall, nectar and ripe fruits compose more of the [Baltimore Oriole] diet; these sugary foods are readily converted into fat, which supplies energy for migration.” The Orioles pictured arrived and lingered just for the water in the birdbath and adjacent fountain.

However, after this sighting, daily oranges and grape jelly were put out to perhaps attract others during their travels, heading back north. So far, though, in the week or so since, no additional Orioles have been sighted.

* UPDATE * — A solo female was sighted at backyard birdbath on February 11, 2022. Then the following day, Feb. 12th, a female and male Baltimore Oriole visited.

Before these 2022 encounters, other Baltimore Orioles have dropped by on a few rare occasions in past years. However, never three (nor even two) at the same time, before this February of 2022. The other Orioles sighted prior years were solo drop ins. Seeing three Orioles arrive together was indeed a special treat!

Fresh Water Attracts Birds To Yards

One need not put out a bird feeder and seed to attract birds. Our feathered friends need sources of fresh water. Placing a birdbath or even just shallow dishes of water will bring birds to yards. Some species seem to prefer shallow rimmed dishes — the ones used under potted plants. Others like raised birdbaths. The dribbling sound of a fountain will also attract birds to stop by. Be sure to place the water source near some cover for the birds (i.e. shrubs, bushes, etc., vegetation, some sheltered perches.)

Want To Learn More About Birdscaping Yards?

Planting native shrubs in yards benefits the environment and will help attract more birds and a variety of pollinators to your property. Here in northeast Florida, check out a helpful local resource, the Nassau County Extension. The University of Florida offers lots of research and “Florida-Friendly” landscaping tips, such as “right plant, right place”. Learn more, see UF/IFAS Extension’s “Landscaping For Wildlife.”

Great Backyard Bird Count 2022 — 25th Anniversary

Cornell University’sAll About Birds” is an excellent source of birding information, as well as eBird’s data. February is when the Cornell Lab conducts its annual event, the Great Backyard Bird Count, happening this year February 18 – 21, 2022. This citizen science project encourages the public around the world to take as little as 15 minutes on one day (or multiple days) to observe birds. Then go online and submit the data about what species were sighted and number count. Watch Cornell’s video below about the Great Backyard Bird Count.

“The Great Backyard Bird Count uses eBird, one of the world’s largest nature databases. It stores more than 100 million bird sightings contributed each year and is used by professionals for science and conservation. Contribute to eBird and become a citizen scientist.”

SOURCE: The Cornell Lab website

One interesting discovery from analyzing bird count data from last year’s event was the timing of spring migration. Some bird species that commonly begin spring migration in late February and March were already on the move about one month ahead of schedule in some places. We note the Amelia Island sighting of Baltimore Orioles during late January 2022, here in northeast Florida at the Georgia border, seems early for spring migration.

“Free As A Bird”

The pandemic resulted in many more people being able to work from home. Another ripple effect was increased attention to one’s yard and/or exploring natural places close to home like nearby parks. Or deciding to pick up and make a move for a better lifestyle.

Many ditched cities for the suburbs or made a major geographic relocation to southern states. Some opted to be “free as a bird,” here in Florida. Whether you’re a newcomer or longtime resident, think about enhancing yards with native shrubs and trees that help sustain wildlife. Also provide a source of fresh water. You’ll be helping birds while also enjoying a variety of visitors. One never knows who will stop by.