Monthly Status of Niagara Frontier Region

Bird Life in Relation to Climate

 

Source:   Beardslee, Clark S. and Harold D. Mitchell. 1965.  Birds of the Niagara Frontier Region, An Annotated Check-list Bulletin of the Buffalo Society of Natural Sciences. Vol. 22. Buffalo, New York 478 pp.

Used with Permission.

 

When one considers that only about 10 percent of our local bird species are permanent residents, it is evident that a large proportion of our birds migrate through the region. Most have fairly definite periods of migration, and the weather often plays a major role in determining the dates of arrival and departure. In the species accounts we have endeavored to eliminate the weather factor as much as possible by showing the average of many years' arrival and departure dates in heavy type and the more unusual early or late dates in lighter type. We will neither consider these unusual dates in this discussion of monthly status, nor will we in most cases refer to the rarer species. Birds with an asterisk after their names in the lists for spring or autumn migrants usually occur in varying abundance, but not rarely, during the winter and summer, respectively, and migrants greatly augment their numbers at the periods indicated.

Weather data are taken from records of the Buffalo Weather Bureau for the thirty year period from 1931 to 1960, inclusive. Temperatures are in degrees Fahrenheit and total monthly precipitation is given in inches.

January-Average temperatures:

 

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Maximum . 29.8

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Minimum . 17.2

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Mean 23.5

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Precipitation . 2.87

 

The bird life of January, the second coldest month of the year, consists almost entirely of permanent residents and winter visitants, with migration at the low point of the year. A few late migrants linger beyond December, and a few Horned Larks (E. a. praticola) usually arrive before the end of the month, so that there is some movement even in the depth of winter. Waterfowl are confined almost exclusively to the Great Lakes and the larger rivers (particularly the Niagara River) because of the freezing of the smaller streams and lakes.

February-Average temperatures:

 

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Maximum .. 30.0

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Minimum ... 16.2

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Mean .. 23.1

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Precipitation ... 2.72

 

During the first half of February, the coldest month of the year, much of the bird life is static. Nevertheless some Great Horned Owls are already nesting. After mid-month the wintering waterfowl are usually joined by migrants, with Canada Geese, Pintails, Redheads and Canvasbacks typifying this early movement. By this time the earlier Horned Lark migrants have been joined by practically all the rest of the local representatives of their race. If there is any warming tendency toward the end of the month some of the following migrants may appear:

 

Marsh Hawk*

Killdeer

Robin*

Eastern Bluebird

Red-winged Blackbird*

Rusty Blackbird

Common Grackle

Brown-headed Cowbird*

March-Average temperatures:

 

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Maximum ... 37.6

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Minimum .... 23.4

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Mean .. 30.5

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Precipitation ... 3.26

 

Whatever the March weather may be, there is always a very noticeable migration of birds. Those listed above as possibilities for late February now arrive in numbers, sometimes in spectacular migration waves along the lake shores. They are soon joined by such species as:

 

Red-necked Grebe

Whistling Swan

American Widgeon

Ring-necked Duck

Hooded Merganser

Red-shouldered Hawk

American Woodcock

Common Snipe

Ring-billed Gull*

Morning Dove*

Eastern Meadowlark*

Fox Sparrow

Song Sparrow*

With the melting of the ice on lakes and streams more and more waterfowl appear. At about the same time many of our hardy winter visitants such as Glaucous, Iceland and Great Black-backed Gulls, Snowy Owls, Northern Shrikes and Snow Buntings leave for the North. Later in the month more of the birds in the preceding list arrive, plus the following new ones:

 

Horned Grebe*

Pied-billed Grebe

Great Blue Heron

Gadwall

Green-winged Teal

Blue-winged Teal

Shoveler

Wood Duck

Lesser Scaup*

Turkey Vulture

Ruddy Duck

Red-breasted Merganser*

Belted Kingfisher

Yellow-shafted Flicker*

Eastern Phoebe

Tree Swallow

Winter Wren

Water Pipit

Loggerhead Shrike

Purple Finch*

 

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