Memorial Day Migratory Bird Watching

Discover what birds are migrating in your area over this long birding weekend

 As spring migration winds down, many species will reach their peak migration this week, making Memorial Day weekend one of the best bird watching weekends of the year. Find out what species will be in your region this weekend and where weather conditions might impact your bird watching plans. 

The “Big Days” of May for Bird Watching

May is the month of global migration and although the “Big Days” of May 11 and May 13 have passed, that doesn’t mean that migratory bird watching is over.  Indeed, species such as the Cedar Waxwing, Swainson’s Thrush, Western Tanager and the Yellow-billed Cuckoo, among scores of others, will grace the skies in the East and West [Source:].

Clouds ahead for the Northeast and Upper Plains

Low pressure and precipitation are forecast for much of this area, making migration difficult for our traveling friends over the weekend, but will return to favorable conditions throughout the remainder of the week, with the most favorable migration day being Thursday, June 1.



Cedar Waxwing PHOTO: Sheila Bremer/Macaulay Library eBird S3673721


Watch for these species’ migration peaks in the Northeast and Upper Plains this weekend


Common Grackle

Barn Swallow

Chimney Swift

Clay-colored Sparrow

Great Crested Flycatcher

Common Yellowthroat

Ruby-throated hummingbird

Black-crowned Night Heron

Semipalmated Plover


Yellow-billed Cuckoo

Common Nighthawk

Philadelphia Vireo

Blackpole Warbler

Canadian Warbler

Mourning Warbler

Olive-sided Flycatcher

Yellow-bellied Flycatcher

Willow Flycatcher

Alder Flycatcher

Cedar Waxwing

Ruby-throated Hummingbird migration peaks in the Northeast and Upper Plains this weekend 

Gulf Coast and the Southeast

Rain is also forecast for much of this area, especially between Saturday and Tuesday for birds arriving from the Gulf of Mexico. The Eastern Gulf and Florida offer more favorable conditions. If you’re a lucky East Coast Floridian, the sounds on Tuesday night will be full of nocturnal night calls.

Look for these species’ peak arrivals and on the Gulf Coast and in the Southeast

  • Ash-throated flycatcher
  • Bullock’s Oriole

Look for these species’ rapid migrant departures in the Gulf and Southeastern seaboard


Ruddy Turnstone

Black-chinned Hummingbird

Red-eyed Vireo

Louisiana Waterthrush



Yellow-billed Cuckoo. PHOTO: Aaron Evans/Macaulay Library eBird S36930664

Weather woes for the Great Plains

The Great Plains gets the worst of unfavorable weather conditions for Memorial Day weekend. There is a bright spot: The Northern Plains – and possibly other areas – will see light winds allowing for moderate to heavy flights on Friday night. Unfortunately, the rest of the Great Plains might not see heavy flights until Tuesday through Thursday. 

Look for peak arrivals over the Great Plains of these species:


Eastern Kingbird

Red-eyed Vireo

Lark Bunting

Adler Flycatcher

Common Nighthawk

Yellow-billed Cuckoo



Eastern Kingbird PHOTO: Harold Ziolkowski/Macaulay Library eBird S36911859 

Late week activity for our bird watchers in the West

For our Western bird watchers, activity will be light until Thursday night. If you’re in Colorado or New Mexico, you’ll get some early action on Sunday night. The Rockies won’t see significant migration until Tuesday night, and the Southwest won’t see much action until Tuesday night.

It won’t be until Thursday night when favorable conditions return overall, especially East of the Rockies.

Western birdwatchers will have the best migration later in the week, lookout for
these species over Memorial Day weekend

White-throated Swift

Brewer’s Blackbird

Pacific Slope Flycatcher

House Wren

Yellow-breasted Chat

Eastern Kingbird

For a full report on the migration forecast for May 19 – 26, 2017 – including peak migration departures and regional wind graphs – visit the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s