ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Recent studies are showing that bird migration patterns are starting to change due to prolonged warmer weather.
The familiar sights and sounds of spring come from the return of many bird species this time of year, driven by strong southwest winds. With the arrival and departure of warmth every winter playing a huge role in the timing of bird migration patterns locally, research scientist Greg Lawrence says we’re already seeing changes to these patterns in our area.
“Here in March right now bird migration is really starting for the spring. With the warm snap we had in February we actually had a lot of waterfowl, ducks and geese that were moving through. We’ve had a lot of snow geese this winter, more than we’d normally have this far west,” says Lawrence.
Since 1967, research has shown that more short migrant birds are arriving sooner on average in New York State and lingering longer in the fall due to the warmer weather.
While this may mean a longer birding season with more opportunities to see different types of birds, this also means more competition and higher chances of certain species becoming endangered or extinct.
“If you get more instances of that where you have more species that are now sort of getting used to the warmer winters and then all of a sudden, we have a cold snap again, a lot more of those would not survive,” Lawrence says.
With Western New York being host to some of the most unique areas for bird migration in the world, Lawrence says these changes are something we should be monitoring.
“You can’t see 40,000 hawks going over you in almost any other part of the entire country, but we have that right here in Rochester, but we’re very lucky to have this here and that’s right in our backyard,“ says Lawrence says.
Protecting stopover habitats for birds and being aware of these changes are just a couple ways to help out during their migration.