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Weather Forecast for the Birds
March 16, 2000

Dear Students:

Contributed by Dr. David Aborn

Two weeks ago I instructed you on how to read a weather map and how weather affects bird migration. So what has happened since then? Well, I mentioned that a weak front was moving across the country, and it probably wouldn't force many birds to land. That prediction was correct. The north winds were
not strong enough to keep birds from flying, so the few migrants that were
around were able continue their journey north.

Last week, however, was a different story. A much stronger cold front moved across the country. It brought lots of rain and strong north winds with it. While it is still early in the migration season, those conditions still forced some of the early migrants to land. Both Texas and Mississippi reported good numbers of Prothontary Warblers, Black-and-white Warblers, and Ruby-throated Hummingbirds on March 8 and 9. Here in Chattanooga, I did not see as much, but we did have our first hummingbirds of the season. By the weekend, the winds along much of the Gulf coast had shifted to the south. This means the birds had a tail wind to help them fly, so they took off. The south winds reached the east by Monday and Tuesday.

The Weather Channel

So what is happening this week? If you look at a weather map, there is another storm system over Texas and Louisiana, with a cold front behind it. These conditions are very similar to last week's system that forced birds to land. Birdwatchers and researchers in Texas, Louisiana, and Mississppi should see good numbers of birds on 3/16 and 3/17. As the system moves east, areas of the southeastern and eastern US should see an increase in migrants. Keep your eyes open! By the weekend or early next week, the birds will have tailwinds again and will leave.

Migration is starting to pick up, and things should get exciting as the
spring progresses! I will let you know what I see.

Take care,


Dr. David Aborn
Ornithologist, Dept. of Biological and Environmental Sciences
University of Tennesse at Chattanooga


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