Apr 13 2012

Why Birds Get Here Last

Published by at 7:30 am under Migration


Earlier this week Libby Strizzi sent me an email with this ruby-throated hummingbird migration map and the question:  Why are the hummingbirds everywhere but here?

The map from hummingbirds.net is shown above with a black circle I drew to highlight the absence of hummers.  Hummingbirds have been seen east, west and north of northwestern Pennsylvania but not in the "hole."

I'll bet this is because northwestern PA is not on any spring migration flyways.

Migrating birds use four aerial "highways" to reach their breeding grounds in the spring.  Pennsylvania is fed by the Atlantic Flyway.  You can see this on the map below by Melissa Mayntz, linked from birding.about.com.


Notice the "hole" in northwestern Pennsylvania where the migration highway splits into two streams.  Early migrants are probably following the main highway and not stopping in PA's northwest corner.  Other migrants fill in the gap but they arrive later.

And notice that two flyways meet in northwestern Ohio at Lake Erie.  Two sources of birds!  That's why birders flock to Magee Marsh, Ohio in May.

We'll just have to be patient.  They'll get here when they get here.

(Hummingbird map from hummingbirds.net.  Flyways map by Melissa Mayntz, linked from birding.about.com.  Click on each map to see the original in context.)

2 responses so far

2 Responses to “Why Birds Get Here Last”

  1. Karenon 13 Apr 2012 at 1:09 pm

    I’ve been following the northward migration on hummingbirds.net for years and it was crazy to see sitings so early this year…..so I put out my feeder about a month early. I haven’t seen a hummer and the feeder levels haven’t moved. I know it will happen soon and I can’t wait. There have been discussions on the internet regarding the early postings on hummingbirds.net I believe it’s just one of those years….everything is so early.

  2. Karenon 13 Apr 2012 at 1:10 pm

    Sorry wanted to add the I live in North Versailles, PA

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