There are a number of blogs and articles that explain strategies that resident birds (like chickadees) have for staying warm during the cold season (feathers, food, shelter, etc.), but for most birds, survival means leaving town.
You'll find a few of the popular winter destinations for migratory songbirds from the United States listed below with a few highlighted species. Feel free to comment and add more!
Northern United States (lower 48)
Northern shrike migrates from summer range in Alaska/Canada to the winter range in the northern United States (lower 48). This photo Northern Shrike (Lanius excubitor) is copyright (c) 2013 Larry McGahey and made available under a CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 license.
Southern United States
Winter range of the ruby-crowned kinglet includes the southern United States and Central America. This photo is courtesy of Peter Pearsall, USFWS.
The winter range of yellow-rumped warblers includes the southern United States and Central America. This photo is courtesy of Peter Pearsall, USFWS.
Wilson's warbler spends the winter in Central America from the western United States and Canada. This photo is courtesy of Lisa Hupp, USFWS.
Common yellowthroat migrates from Canada and United States to its winter range in Central America. This photo is courtesy of Bill Thompson, USFWS.
Scarlet tanagers fly across the Gulf of Mexico from their breeding grounds in eastern North America to wintering grounds in South America. This photo Scarlet Tanager is copyright (c) 2013 Matt Stratmoen and made available under a CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 license.
Black-throated green warblers migrate to the Caribbean and parts of Central America for the winter. This photo Black-throated Green Warbler is copyright (c) 2013 Matt Stratmoen and made available under a CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 license.
No matter where these birds travel to for winter, we want to make sure they have a healthy home when they get there. One way we accomplish this is through our Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act (NMBCA, or neotrop) grant program. Neotropical birds spend part of the year in the U.S. and Canada, and spend the winter in more southern climes (“neo” means “new”, as in New World, or the Americas).
These grants support projects to conserve migratory bird habitat and educate in local communities in Latin America and the Caribbean (as well as the U.S. and Canada). For number nerds, that’s over $50 million in grants, for nearly 500 projects, with partners in 36 countries!
If you can’t make it to Latin America, not to worry. There are bird festivals across the United States that highlight wintering birds at local National Wildlife Refuges.
This year marks the Centennial of the first Migratory Bird Treaty, and you can expect many celebratory events in 2016.
SO even if you aren’t taking a tropical vacation this winter, you may take some comfort in knowing that some of your favorite summer birds are doing it for you.