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shire_home

What birds migrate South in January

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While outside from 4:30-5pm January 10th we saw several V-shaped formations of the same bird heading directly South. I'm curious if you can help me figure out what bird this is who would be migrating South so late.  We are in Northern Virginia and live near wooded parkland and not too far from the mountains.  This image is of the largest formation which has about 130 birds. The smaller formations were less than 50 birds. Most formations were flying independently but some were close enough that birds would switch from one V to the other.  We probably saw 6-8 formations and I'd guess 200 to 300 birds total (or more...I'm not good at guessing!).  I don't think they were Canadian Geese as they were flying considerably higher than our geese fly and our local geese don't fly *just* South like these were. These also had shorter necks than geese.  They do seem to be a medium to large bird.  I could not hear any bird calls associated with the flocks. Any thoughts? Thanks in advance!

IMG-0057.JPG

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Those actually look like gulls -- they may be moving south because of the deep freeze in the east. They like to have open water during the winter.

There are other species that will migrate looking like this -- Sandhill Cranes, geese of all sorts, White Pelicans. And Canada Geese would be a possibility -- your local ones may not migrate, but the birds breeding well north of you do, and when they move, they fly high and in formation like this.

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32 minutes ago, psweet said:

Those actually look like gulls -- they may be moving south because of the deep freeze in the east. They like to have open water during the winter.

There are other species that will migrate looking like this -- Sandhill Cranes, geese of all sorts, White Pelicans. And Canada Geese would be a possibility -- your local ones may not migrate, but the birds breeding well north of you do, and when they move, they fly high and in formation like this.

agreed

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Many northerly-wintering species, particularly of waterbirds, are what is called "facultative migrants," meaning that they stay as far north (thus closer to breeding grounds) as possible.  If weather and foraging conditions deteriorate during the winter, they then move, usually south.  Additionally, geese have been shown to be constantly on the move in winter, moving south when conditions deteriorate and north when they ameliorate.  When I lived right on the Delaware Bayshore in Cape May Co., NJ, some nights there were Snow Geese moving north, and some they were moving south.  'Twas most interesting.

American Robin is also a well-known facultative migrant.  When there has been a movement into an area in winter in the northeast, it's a good idea to look carefully through the flocks, as Fieldfares and Redwings have been found among such.  Also, male Dark-eyed Juncos that breed in the southern Appalachians have been well studied.  They winter downhill from their breeding sites, and frequently visit those breeding sites in winter.

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Thank you so much for each of you who weighed in on this! I have learned so much and been helped from your comments! I appreciate the time you took to share your knowledge and insight with me! I posted this same picture on a group site for the nature park that is right near our house and one of the other members commented that he had seen the same birds and that he believed they were ring-billed gulls who are year-round natives of this area.  So psweet and Gis were right-on with the gull identification.  And Tony, it was so helpful to learn about facultative migrants and why I often see the Robin so much earlier than Sping! Thank you all!

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There's another aspect of Robin behavior that affects when you see them. Many of the northern populations don't go all that far south -- we get a lot of them here in Chicago. But they spend most of the winter tucked into forested areas, preferably with berry trees and bushes. So you don't see them until the spring thaws, unless you actively go looking.

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Yes, we have a park here in Buffalo, NY called Tifft Nature Preserve and the first Robin siting there is usually early January.  This year it was January 7th, which also happens to be the first ebird report for the location in 2018.  With how cold it was the 21st week of January it is not surprising that no reports were submitted earlier than that.

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On 1/12/2018 at 9:56 AM, jhauser42 said:

Yes, we have a park here in Buffalo, NY called Tifft Nature Preserve and the first Robin siting there is usually early January.  This year it was January 7th, which also happens to be the first ebird report for the location in 2018.  With how cold it was the 21st week of January it is not surprising that no reports were submitted earlier than that.

Tifft is awesome :) My fiance and I have visited twice over the years. 

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To answer the broad question in the title, many raptors do this too....Saw-whet owls will mostly stay as far north as a lack of snow cover permits (think how small they are) and usually it isn't until mid winter that we (here in souther NY) get a big influx of Rough-legged hawks. 

And water birds too, as mentioned, is also a big one. Usually once the great lakes start freezing over, you end up seeing a big push south. 

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i live in the four corners close to where the states of Colorado Utah New Mexico and Arizona  my backyard is right at 7000 foot elevation foothills just below the mountains. my story is just the opposite with only a few light snow storms this winter and no snow left on the ground. it has been in the Teens at night but in the 40's to low 50's daytime. the warmest winter i have ever seen here. there are lots of birds that usually migrate in the fall still here such as blackbirds and robins  and the water is not frozen over and a lots more ducks and geese and other waterbirds hanging around and lots of juncos and evening grosbeaks and stellar jays and  chickadees and  finches and towhees all eating together at my feeders. the christmas bird count was at Pastorius resevior near Durango Colorado and it had one of the highest  number of species and also one of the highest total  number of birds.

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