In late September, the colorful, capricious species known as snowbirds begin returning to their winter habitat, flying and driving to Arizona to escape from the winter chills of Minnesota, Illinois, Wisconsin, Canada, and other cold places. There are those who divide their time fifty-fifty between their northern haunts and the warmer climes. There are others who come south for just two or three months. They are spotted most often in November and December. By January they tend to take on more of the traits of locals. Snowbirds do not come only to the Grand Canyon State. The destination varies depending on the original habitat of the species and that of their native flock. Those who migrate here to Arizona are mostly of the Midwestern variety, lifting off from places such as the cold states we mention above, as well as Nebraska, Ohio, Indiana, and Iowa. The Eastern Snowbird, native to New York, New Jersey, Virginia, Massachusetts, and other eastern states often prefers to winter in Florida. Large flocks of the Eastern variety gather in warm places in Florida, like Palm Beach, Naples, and The Villages, a self-proclaimed “Drinking Community with a Golfing Problem.” The snowbirds who come here to Southern Arizona are scattered among a variety of senior communities and home owner associations throughout the suburbs of Phoenix, and the Tucson area. Most snowbirds maintain a similar appearance. No matter the locale, an experienced snowbird watcher can easily spot them. When snowbirds first arrive, in early autumn, it is common to see them in supermarkets stocking up for the season. Here’s how you can tell the difference between a local and a snowbird. Let’s say you’re shopping in the supermarket on a sunny 70 degree afternoon: If you see a man or woman wearing blue jeans, sneakers, and a sweatshirt or denim shirt, that’s a local. If it’s a snowbird, you will observe the male wearing pleated Bermuda shorts; flip-flops or sandals, along with either a Hawaiian shirt or a tee-shirt emblazoned with a symbol of his home habitat, such as “Go Badgers” or the large, ostentatious, gold Michigan “M.”
Unlike other species of birds and mammals, the female’s plumage is more colorful than that of the male, and is easier to identify. She may have on Bermuda shorts, but more often she’ll be sporting Capri pants, either white or a pastel shade. She’ll be wearing a tank top or a sleeveless blouse of a color matching her shoes, usually flowered flip-flops or high-heeled sandals. On her head, look for a flowery visor with a huge, rounded, protruding bill. Don’t be surprised to see sunglasses, even in the brightly lighted store. Jewelry is expected and may appear on the female snowbird’s ears, neck, wrists, and ankles. Snowbirds seldom display pierced body parts, other than ears.
Please remember Snowbirds are a protected species. Typically, they get along well with other species, but are known to chirp excessively about where they came from, talk incessently about their grandchicks, and moan about their ailments. They also contribute greatly to the local economy.
Modified from original posted 10/29/2015