Fall Migratory Birds

By Kristiana Heath

Calling all birdwatchers! The cooler temperatures of fall and winter spur the fall migration of many species of birds heading south to warmer climates. The fall migration of birds usually begins in September and November. Some birds fly incredible journeys all the way to the southern hemisphere, while making stops in Florida along the way. Others take advantage of the relatively warm climate of central and south Florida and call our area home for a few months. Our stable winter climate means that some bird species returning to their spring breeding grounds to the north can begin to be seen here as early as January and February, marking the start of the spring migratory season.

One of the more colorful visitors, the Painted Bunting, has started showing up in the area! The adult male is unmistakable with their brilliant blue head, green back, and red rump and red belly. The painted bunting originates in the Southeast and South Central U.S. As the weather gets colder, they migrate deeper into Mexico and Central Florida.

One of the largest groups of migratory birds seen in Florida are the warblers. These rather small birds often have names that reflect the color of their feathers. Warbler identification can be quite difficult, especially during their fall migration, because their plumage is less vibrant than during the spring. Yellow is a common color for warblers. Making note of where on their bodies the yellow is displayed can help in identification.

Red-tailed Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk by Andrew Cannizzaro

Even raptors, such as hawks and falcons, include some migratory species. While many raptors including Osprey and Red-tailed Hawk are commonly seen in Florida year-round, others can be spotted locally on their migratory journey. The Swallow-tailed Kite for example travels 5,000 miles from Florida all the way to South America!

Swallow-tailed Kite
Swallow-tailed Kite by Cephas

Keep your eyes peeled and you just might catch a glimpse of a feathered friend on their spectacular seasonal journey.