Many of us are familiar with the concept of birds heading south for the winter and returning when the weather gets a bit nicer (in fact, we may even know people who escape Maine for the warmer climates for the same reason). However, did you know that there are Arctic snowbirds that routinely travel to Maine during the winter months?
Warmer Weather in the Winter?
We’ve all heard the saying the grass is greener on the other side of the fence and this even applies to cold climates—in this case, the brutal winters of the Arctic. Mainers know how rough our winters can be but for birds stuck in the Arctic freeze, our region is a delight.
As the saying goes, it’s all relative when it comes to temperature, and compared to the Arctic, Maine’s comparatively warmer climate is a blessing for more than birds. Believe it or not, you’ll find a variety of bats and insects heading south but that’s a tale for another time.
Arctic Snowbirds in Maine
Just as we watch our neighbors winterizing their homes before heading out in their RVs, cars, or even taking a big metal bird to warmer climates, so too does the arrival of snowbirds remind us that winter is coming.
There are various birds that make their way to Maine in the winter From snowy owls and snow buntings to beloved birds such as black scoters, surf scoters, long-tailed ducks, harlequin ducks, purple sandpipers, and even loons.
The common loons that overwinter along the coast in Maine come from both the inland waters in the interior US / Canada and the Arctic. Red-throated loons primarily breed in the far reaches of Canada.
Harlequin ducks visit Maine from as far away as Greenland.
White-winged scoters nest in the northwestern part of Canada, but black scoters are more common in the northeastern portions of Canada, while surf scoters are scattered across the northern portions of Canada.
Long-tailed ducks are a true Arctic breeding bird, as well as the purple sandpiper.
Snowbirds for Mainers or Visitors
As you can see, there are some fascinating snowbirds to observe during the winter months. Whether you’re a Mainer or just visiting our beautiful state in the winter, these special friends can make for treasured moments as you see birdlife from up north.
From the Friends of Maine Coastal Islands Wildlife Refuge, we hope you have a great time birding in Maine!
Visit the Friends of Maine Coastal Islands National Wildlife Refuge blog to learn more about Maine’s coastal wildlife.