🔒 Michigan bird migration: Where they fly, which ones stay for winter

Sparrow.

Where have all the birds gone?


You’ve likely already started to notice the lack of chirping in your yard. That’s because, as I’m sure you’re aware, many birds fly south for the winter (as do many Michiganders).

But where are those birds going? And which birds are sticking it out with us?

Michigan bird migration

Well, first off, why do birds fly south, besides to enjoy the warmer weather for the holidays? Here's a great explanation from the Michigan State University Extension:

In the most basic sense, birds migrate south for survival and return north to reproduce. They go to where there is sufficient food and protection. Geese, ducks and most waterfowl migrate south to seek open water where they find food and protection. If open water remains through the winter, some waterfowl may stay.

Other birds do not have sufficient food sources to stay through winter since the ground is frozen and natural food sources are depleted. They know when to leave based on photo periods (amount of daylight) combined with environmental factors.

Many birds spend the winter in a variety of locations. Some will travel great distances and others will not. Many Michigan birds will travel as far as Mexico, the Caribbean and even South America. Geese and ducks may only relocate to northern territories where agricultural practices provide sufficient food.

Others such as robins and woodcock fly to where the ground does not freeze so they can seek their favorite food-worms. Migration routes are typically north-south, but there are variations that take birds to the eastern U.S. coastline.

Who's leaving, who's staying

Many common Michigan birds leave for winter and return in spring. Robins, sparrows, warblers and hummingbirds are among those that leave for the comforts of a warmer climate.

Chickadees, nuthatches, cardinals and blue jays are year-round residents. Other birds migrate to Michigan for the winter from northern environments.

Pine siskins, dark-eyed juncos, snow buntings and crossbills are just some of the birds seen in parts of Michigan only during winter.

The Peterson Field Guide to Birds and Bird Nature are good sources to locate bird migrations through Michigan. Read more from MSU here.


This article first appeared in the Morning Report Newsletter. Get it directly to your inbox, if you’d like. Sign up for it here or below.


About the Author:

Ken Haddad is the digital special projects manager for WDIV / ClickOnDetroit.com. He also authors the Morning Report Newsletter and various other newsletters. He's been with WDIV since 2013.