ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel
  • »
  • Education and Science»
  • Geography, Nature & Weather

What the Duck Is Going On with the Birds?

Updated on December 28, 2015
Yellow Warblers in December?  You betcha!
Yellow Warblers in December? You betcha! | Source

Is This a Major Cause for Concern?

Several bird species are still in the northeast regions of the United States, and many birders have been enjoying them. Southern Maine from York to Saco has been enjoying the Western Tanager, the Tennessee, Yellow, and the Nashville Warbler, as well as the Baltimore Oriole. Old Orchard Beach and Scarboro, Maine have been enjoying the Little Blue Heron, as well. New York City’s Central Park has also been hosting the Painted Bunting.

These are all neotropical migrants that should have left that part of the country six to eight weeks ago. Generally, adult birds migrate south first and pick up the choicest territories, usually where they hung their hats last winter. Finally, the juvenile birds head south, and in rank and file, they may have very poor territories, which makes it even harder for them to survive, and some don’t.

As far as I can tell, we're not looking at large numbers of birds that are still in the northeast, just a few stragglers whose magnetic mapping might not have been up to snuff.

Birds on NEXUS Radar
Birds on NEXUS Radar | Source

But, What If?

Our fat little guests should be rather healthy and robust now, but it is not known how much longer they will attempt to stay in the northern climes. For the sake of food and territory, they have the crème de la crème at this juncture, but once it gets cold, unless they leave quickly, they won’t be able to survive more than a couple of days of a hard freeze. Our northern birds have much more insulation than they do, and are able to handle the cold much better, plus they know how to use shelters and where to find them.

You'll Need This For Unusual Birds in Your Part of the Country

El Nino and Global Warming

The last time this kind of weather occurred, was during the El Nino season of 2009, followed by 2002. Most of the world has had record temperatures over November and up until the present. The El Nino effect, a phenomenon where the equatorial regions of the Pacific become superheated, causes the north to experience much warmer temperatures. This is actually a very common occurrence, but with this being coupled with global warming, it will occur more frequently as time progresses.

Since the polar cap is shrinking, the angles of the ice versus the warming effects of the sun are no longer able to warm the earth like they used to do. Without El Nino warming the water, this will create a dual effect for the following year, which will gift us with winters that are much more normal, more intense cold. We will see more seasonable temperatures, as well as more snowfall, until the next El Nino, of course.

The neotropical Dickcissel on December 22?  It is recorded on eBird in Eastport, Maine!
The neotropical Dickcissel on December 22? It is recorded on eBird in Eastport, Maine! | Source

Overall, What Is Happening Here?

Birders are going to be noticing a lot of new things over the next decade. As the overall climate warms in general, insects will be moving north and will be staying longer in the central northern and northeast parts of the United States.

As an example, warblers are insectivores, as are sparrows. As common sense dictates for these birds, why leave an area if there is still plenty of food to go around?

With the ornithological field still wide open and plenty to study, there are still a lot of questions that remain unanswered. As citizen scientists, you are making valuable contributions by watching your feeders on a daily basis, observing and reporting what species of birds that are there all year long. Through the eBird database, this data is tabulated and new trends are found as they occur. Over a certain period, we find that shifts occur with the seasonal locations of our birds, and then we discover why. It is simply survival, and now that we have an idea of why this happens, global warming makes more sense, doesn't it? Even our ducks are still up north, which is why we have so few in the south now.

Does feeding the birds really make that much of a difference? Absolutely! If your friends and family invited you to dinner more, wouldn't you be inclined to visit more often? It is the same principal. With birds having so many challenges with migration, if there is more food available for a longer period of time, it will make it less likely that all of them will disappear to the tropics. As the years go on, you'll discover through more and more research that YOU provide, this will most likely be the case.

Try it for yourself and see what a difference you can make. Submit your data on eBird and you'll be glad that you did. It's easy, so make a profile and get started today in the name of science.


Male Painted Bunting
Male Painted Bunting | Source

Can I Have a Little Help For My Friends?

However, what about the birds that are not in Central and South America like they should be? Time will definitely tell on that one. All I can say is to keep those feeders clean and filled with quality black oil sunflower seeds, hang up plenty of suet for the woodpeckers, and keep those birdbaths full of fresh water. In the north, it won’t hurt to set up a few extra roost boxes for the birds to escape the cold when needed. Be kind to the birds, as they need all the help that they can get.

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology is still recording the Christmas Bird Count totals, so there will be plenty of unusual birds on their lists for this December. I’m willing to bet that this was one of the most unusual years on record.

Keep your eyes on the ground and your head in the clouds. Happy birding!

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • aviannovice profile image
      Author

      Deb Hirt 16 months ago from Stillwater, OK

      Hey, Nadine May! For starters, this is an El Nino year, and it will have far-reaching effects throughout the entire world. Birds also get confused by cyclical pulses, as well. To make a long story short, but I can prove it to easily enough: global warming is very real, and it began when the ozone layer of the atmosphere was breached decades ago. In any event, look at the latest shots of the northern polar cap decades ago vs. now and you'll notice a definite change. Yes, we DID help global warming reach what it has today. Any additional queries, please feel free to ask.

    • Nadine May profile image

      Nadine May 16 months ago from Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa

      Interesting article especially from us in Cape Town where there was a big commotion going on about a grayish looking bird: lesser craik I think was it's name that was spotted in our Silver mine wetlands in Clovelly where we live. Photographers from all over came down to shoot this bird with a zoom lens due to the time of the year that it was suppose to fly North instead of South. I'm not sure that I go for the global warning idea, since it is my feeling that our planet is going through cycles that it has always done, and its NOT due to us humans at all. ( but you might not mean about that we created global warming ) Yes we do have to look after our planet by honoring it instead of abusing it the way we seem to do, but humanity will become extinct well before our planet ever will.

    • aviannovice profile image
      Author

      Deb Hirt 17 months ago from Stillwater, OK

      Thanks, Norma! I am always working on trying to improve my photos.

    • norlawrence profile image

      Norma Lawrence 17 months ago from California

      Great article and the pictures are beautiful

    • aviannovice profile image
      Author

      Deb Hirt 21 months ago from Stillwater, OK

      Hey, Katherine! The snowiest ended up way down south in FL, and yes, you are correct that it was in regards to food. The snow covered up everything. Evening Grosbeaks are another bird that are involved in irruptions, so watch for them, too. Glad to hear about your birding adventures! Follow me on Google+ if you'd like to see all my photos. I think my skills are improving, but your opinion would matter a great deal, if you don't mind.

    • Sparrowlet profile image

      Katharine L Sparrow 21 months ago from Massachusetts, USA

      I'm a birder up here in Massachusetts and have contributed to the database before, but not this past year. We had somewhat of the opposite effect last year.. in influx of Snowy Owls from Canada took up residence along our beaches and stayed most of the winter! We rarely see them here, but apparently they have been breeding and feeding so successfully up north of us that the food supply was becoming short and they headed south in search of more critters to eat. It was a treat to see these majestic birds, but it did make for a rush of birders on our beaches who did not know enough to stay off the grassy areas to prevent erosion of the beach! Oh well. Thanks for the reminder to contribute to the bird watching database and I'll keep my eyes open for those southern species! Wonderful, informative hub.

    • aviannovice profile image
      Author

      Deb Hirt 23 months ago from Stillwater, OK

      Temperatures and climates are in flux everywhere in the world, Les Trois Chenes. El Nino has an effect in it, too, compounding a lot of weather factors, as well. There are still a few neotropical migrants like the Baltimore Oriole and several warbler series in the northeast. If nothing else, it will rove the resilience of these birds.

    • Les Trois Chenes profile image

      Les Trois Chenes 23 months ago from Videix, Limousin, South West France

      Temperatures are causing all sorts of changes in France too. All very worrying. Thank you for such a interesting article on global warming and the effect of birds.

    • aviannovice profile image
      Author

      Deb Hirt 23 months ago from Stillwater, OK

      Hey Koffeklatch Gals! Many people opt to feed the birds year round, as they love the beautiful visitors with their sweet song. Thanks for commenting.

    • KoffeeKlatch Gals profile image

      Susan Haze 23 months ago from Sunny Florida

      This is a wonderful hub. I am wondering if these poor birds aren't a tad confused with the warmer weather this year. Here in Fl we put out seed and feed them no matter what time of year.

    • aviannovice profile image
      Author

      Deb Hirt 23 months ago from Stillwater, OK

      Yes, Audrey, they have, specifically for the reasons outlined. Even the ducks are still in the northeast. Very few have headed south, even as of now.

    • AudreyHowitt profile image

      Audrey Howitt 23 months ago from California

      I was wondering about this issue the other day with regard to marine life--this year the migration patterns have been crazy

    • aviannovice profile image
      Author

      Deb Hirt 23 months ago from Stillwater, OK

      Not at all, Mel. Birds will be passing through for their course of nature. It is very true that we had some stragglers, and yes, it will increase, but that is due to the global warming. There is much not known about this fact of life, and we will learn more as it continues. I am part of the Whooping Crane Project this year at Aransas NWR, where we will be studying crane food, and where that will be heading in the years regarding global warming. Naturally, there will be more on that event later.

      Basically, migratory patterns are involuntary, just like your heartbeat and breathing. Food will be a source of assistance for the supercharged migratory movement.

    • Mel Carriere profile image

      Mel Carriere 23 months ago from San Diego California

      Deb, of course I agree with your premise that we have to help the birds, but by leaving food out for them in cold climes are we not inadvertently altering their normal migratory patterns, perhaps for the worse? Your thoughts? Love Ebird. Great hub!

    • aviannovice profile image
      Author

      Deb Hirt 23 months ago from Stillwater, OK

      ChitrangadaSharan, I certainly know the birds and the environment, so it is only natural that I awaken everyone else to those facts. The will be a hard winter for some birds in this country, and I hope that they have the mettle to survive.

    • ChitrangadaSharan profile image

      Chitrangada Sharan 23 months ago from New Delhi, India

      Interesting and informative hub as always! I appreciate your in depth knowledge and your sincere efforts to create awareness among others regarding birds and the environment.

      Lovely photographs and insightful read. Thank you for sharing!

    • aviannovice profile image
      Author

      Deb Hirt 23 months ago from Stillwater, OK

      Glimmer Twin Fan, I hope to one day see and get a good photo of the Snowy Owl. They are gorgeous birds, and have really been seen all over the country. Like everything else, birds are in flux with both global warming and El Nino, which this is a year. Neotropical migrants are STILL up north, so if this is a sign of things to come, it has been very rapid.

    • Glimmer Twin Fan profile image

      Glimmer Twin Fan 23 months ago

      It's been unbelievably warm here in NW PA, but it's finally getting back to normal, at least for now. One thing I thought was interesting was that, despite the warmer temps, snowy owls have been spotted in NJ. We have friends that went to the Jersey shore to take photos of them. I've only been lucky enough to see one in nature years ago. Interesting hub and thought provoking. Happy New Year to you!

    • aviannovice profile image
      Author

      Deb Hirt 23 months ago from Stillwater, OK

      Hey, Marie! Global warming coupled with El Nino is causing a lot of crazy weather. We are chilly is the midwest and central states, the rest of the country is warmer than normal. Get used to it. This year, we could well be in flux until summer. Happy New Year to you, too.

    • truthfornow profile image

      truthfornow 23 months ago from New Orleans, LA

      It was a very warm Christmas this year at a high of 86 in Florida. I come back to NOLA and it is cold. This weather is confusing us all. Love reading all your very informative facts about the birds. Happy New Year to you!

    • aviannovice profile image
      Author

      Deb Hirt 23 months ago from Stillwater, OK

      You're so welcome, Dave. Did you hear about record temps at the North Pole and 100 mph winds?

    • D.A.L. profile image

      Dave 23 months ago from Lancashire north west England

      Thank you Deb, much appreciated.

    • aviannovice profile image
      Author

      Deb Hirt 23 months ago from Stillwater, OK

      Yes, of course you can, Dave. Just the normal attribution to me, is all that I ask.

    • D.A.L. profile image

      Dave 23 months ago from Lancashire north west England

      hi Deb , the worlds weather has gone haywire. I hope the Climate change summit agreement made in Paris will come to fruition and is not all political talk {as is usually the case} or we are in big trouble. Wildlife and humans are coming more and more under threat with each passing decade. It is great that you have highlighted the problem that has been ignored for so long well done. Your photography is amazing as always.

      {Ps can I use the picture of red winged black bird on your site please.}

    • PegCole17 profile image

      Peg Cole 24 months ago from Dallas, Texas

      Your information and photos are as always, interesting and beautiful. I noticed that there are robins flocking to my yard, about three dozen of them, while they usually don't show up until February. Thanks for bringing awareness to the situation with migration.

    • aviannovice profile image
      Author

      Deb Hirt 24 months ago from Stillwater, OK

      Global warming is here and now, Larry, and it is going to get even warmer.

    • Larry Rankin profile image

      Larry Rankin 24 months ago from Oklahoma

      Maybe I'm being reactionary, but I find this year's temperature down right disturbing.

      I'm confused by the climate, much less the animals.

      Wonderful hub.

    • aviannovice profile image
      Author

      Deb Hirt 24 months ago from Stillwater, OK

      That is part of what I wish to do, Frank, provide awareness to all regarding our animals and birds, for once they are gone, it is over. Each valuable piece of the ecosystem is tied into every other one, and a shift in balance, causes big trouble. I know that you have looked around and seen that. If you really want to help, share my material with everyone that you know, and sign petitions. We have gained a lot of ground with petitions. Did you know that our Congress was trying to get rid of the Migratory Bird Act? You have a safe holiday, too, and watch out for my bird friends in CT.

    • Frank Atanacio profile image

      Frank Atanacio 24 months ago from Shelton

      I love the fact that you create awareness .. I mean I had no idea of how the climate is playing a role in our wildlife.. always been a city person, but I have been seeing different species of birds lately.. Parakeets for one and those huge nests they're building in Fairfield County Connecticut.. thanks for writing hubs like these.. have a safe Holiday my friend :)

    • aviannovice profile image
      Author

      Deb Hirt 24 months ago from Stillwater, OK

      Yes, swalia, nature is very close to my heart. Thanks so much for recognizing the importance, and please share it wherever and whoever you can, even if it is minor input in a conversation. Without nature, we will cease to exist.

    • swalia profile image

      Shaloo Walia 24 months ago

      A very relevant and alarming hub! You are doing a wonderful job in creating awareness about something close to your heart.

    • aviannovice profile image
      Author

      Deb Hirt 24 months ago from Stillwater, OK

      Yes, manatita, it is my life's vocation, to protect all the innocents...

    • aviannovice profile image
      Author

      Deb Hirt 24 months ago from Stillwater, OK

      Hey, rdsparrowriter! I'm glad that you think of me when you see birds. They are definitely my trademark.

    • aviannovice profile image
      Author

      Deb Hirt 24 months ago from Stillwater, OK

      Yes, Alicia, we must, as they have a difficult journey across the gulf, and it is no easy feat to find decent territories this late in the game.

    • aviannovice profile image
      Author

      Deb Hirt 24 months ago from Stillwater, OK

      Thanks, Sha! I know that I can count on you.

    • manatita44 profile image

      manatita44 24 months ago from london

      Climate change, they say? Yes, birds do get confused like we do, not always being able to work out the weather. Or perhaps they sense the difference, hence we find them in the wrong place at the wrong time.

      Good on you, as they will somehow need looking after, I suppose. I do not see them where I am, but again, I admit I know so little.

      Some very pretty and interesting-looking birds, Deb. Keep up the good work.

    • rdsparrowriter profile image

      rdsparrowriter 24 months ago

      I really liked this :) Whenever I see a bird I don't know of I always remember you as you might be able to say what the bird is called :) Merry Christmas and may God bless you!

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 24 months ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Thanks for sharing the information and photos as well as the advice about how to help birds. We need to do what we can to help them survive.

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 24 months ago from Central Florida

      I hope the dear birds have enough time to get out before the weather stops them in their tracks. What a shame that would be. I wonder if they feel confused?

      I'll certainly do what I can to give them a welcome rest stop here in Florida.

    • aviannovice profile image
      Author

      Deb Hirt 24 months ago from Stillwater, OK

      Very ominous, Chantelle. What have we wrought?

    • Chantelle Porter profile image

      Chantelle Porter 24 months ago from Chicago

      Animals are so much more in tune with the environment than we are and here we are destroying it. When I was a kid I used to love seeing the geese fly south for the winter in their V formation. Now our seasons seem to be somewhat messed up and we don't see the definite Spring and Fall weather that we used to. Ominous times.

    • aviannovice profile image
      Author

      Deb Hirt 24 months ago from Stillwater, OK

      That's what concerns me, builders, the seasonable temps that are sure to come for more than a couple of days. Granted, birds are very astute to climatic changes, namely the drop is weather pressure, but some of these birds(and I am assuming that they are the first winter birds), have not even experienced any of the ways of the world--yet. I just hope that their magnetic fields will get them out of trouble. Another problems for us researchers to look at from a bird's eye view.

    • aviannovice profile image
      Author

      Deb Hirt 24 months ago from Stillwater, OK

      Hey Deergha! Indeed I have missed you, and everything else that is going on, researching my birds and the problems that face them on a daily basis.

    • aviannovice profile image
      Author

      Deb Hirt 24 months ago from Stillwater, OK

      It sure is, John, and it is worldwide. This is a very upcoming powerful El Nino, the wildest ride that we have ever seen, so hold onto your hat. And yes, the animals usually take shelter much as we do, even in the rain.

    • Buildreps profile image

      Buildreps 24 months ago from Europe

      It's here the same with the temperatures. We've had record temperatures here in Holland. It's usually around zero, but now between 12 and 15 degrees Celsius. Birds are singing in the morning, buds are appearing everywhere on trees and shrubs, daffodils are popping up already, even some goose have already chicks of a few weeks old. Our climate is clearly warming up, but maybe we'll experience a sudden sharp drop in temperature in January or February. I wonder how nature will cope with that.

    • dghbrh profile image

      deergha 24 months ago from ...... a place beyond now and beyond here !!!

      Very time relevant hub as always dear Deb. I liked it really. Hope you are doing great.

      Merry Christmas and Happy new Year in advance.

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 24 months ago from Queensland Australia

      I don't know what is going on Deb, but birds and in fact most animals seem to be more in tune to changes in the Earth and climate than we humans are. We never experience extreme cold or snow here so I imagine we don't experience the same type of migration patterns that you do. I have noticed however that we don't seem to have as many birds around as we normally do. The temperatures are very hot at present and maybe they are seeking shelter from the heat.. but still something seems to be afoot.

    • aviannovice profile image
      Author

      Deb Hirt 24 months ago from Stillwater, OK

      Merry Christmas, Jackie. With an El Nino year, it is generally very mild. You might see some birds that really don't belong there, even when it is warmer, like the pelagic birds(deep water birds).

    • aviannovice profile image
      Author

      Deb Hirt 24 months ago from Stillwater, OK

      Just food and water during the winter in areas that get snow covered. It then makes it harder for the birds to find food. It's so much easier in the south, unless you get nailed by a strange storm. In FL, you only need to feed the birds for spring and fall migration, when they are traveling north and south.

    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 24 months ago from The Beautiful South

      Wow; it will be interesting to see if these birds know something we don't huh? I hope it is a mild and uneventful winter everywhere!

      Merry Christmas, Deb!

    • Missy Smith profile image

      Missy Smith 24 months ago from Florida

      Yes, the temps have really been crazy. We have had record temps in the 80s, and only a few pretty cold nights, not so many days here in Florida. It has, unfortunately, made me deathly sick. I've been fighting for almost two months to get rid of my nasty cough. What does this mean for the little birdies, because I have indeed heard lots of woodpeckers lately? I will buy some of those sunflower seeds and lay in some feeders. Maybe in the crook of the branches in the trees I've heard them in.

      You are very knowledgeable about this, Deb. And I, for one, am happy that you are. I love those little birds and want to know how to help out.