The snowbird migration is underway.
The V-shaped flight pattern of geese heading south for the winter has become a symbolic image of frigid weather approaching. A similar phenomenon takes place with humans as thousands of Northerners flock south seeking refuge from the blistering cold.
From scenic views to five star dining and shopping, the US Sunbelt has become a major attraction for snowbirds—and the season is now in full swing.
Fledgling snowbirds often start as vacationers, but most evolve in flocks, following friends and family and regional or social enclaves into migratory communities. Snowbirds of a feather do tend to flock together.
They are gilded nomads, prosperous enough to at least afford a camper, trailer, or motorhome.
And most of them seem to like company. At journey’s end: Happy reunions and outdoor play under mostly sunny blue skies. That’s a slice of the good life that snowbirds relish. Between golf, pickleball, bocce, hiking and biking, going to the restaurants— and just enjoying the weather: it’s phenomenal.
The weather is a driving factor in pushing snowbirds from fleeing the falling temperatures and their cold-climate and snowy nests following the first winter blast of the season. Life is good here, pleasant, easy, fulfilling, sunny, warm. That most of all, warm.
Climate is a major economic driver for Sunbelt states as winter visitors flee their homes in colder parts of the country. Many snowbirds fill up the RV parks, resulting in millions of dollars being dumped into local economies.
Time was when snowbirds adhered to the calendar as predictably as swallows return, each March 19, to Capistrano or Monarch butterflies, each October, to Mexico. The Season began on October 15 and ended on April 15.
Snowbirds tend to migrate in waves with the early birds arriving in October, and another flock after Thanksgiving with the final wave following Christmas and New Years. Then, in the shift of seasons, they go again returning north anytime between March and May.
Through both journeys, they change the lives of everyone else who comes, for however long, and of everyone who stays. Snowbirds create a demand for goods and services. They create additional jobs. The dollar impact of their presence is anyone’s guess.
No one tracks snowbirds in Florida. The chambers and tourist bureaus don’t.
It’s been ten years since a study has been done on the economic impact of winter visitors in Arizona, but at that time it was estimated that RV snowbirds injected more than $600 million into Arizona’s economy.
In the eyes of many year-round residents, snowbirds are somewhat akin to houseguests: Good to see them arrive, good to see them depart. Snowbird season means greater traffic volume, more crowded supermarket aisles, endless waits to snag a table at a favorite dining spot.
Although year-round residents occasionally whine about more-congested roads, most will agree: Snowbirds inject vitality and dollars into the region. Local businesses will enjoy the economic boost until late March when things really start to heat up in the Sunbelt states and snowbirds start the trek back to their northern homes.
And, snowbirds don’t just play and pay in paradise: Many volunteer. Opportunities for volunteering are available at hospitals and nursing homes, amusement and theme parks, museums and art galleries, visitor information and welcome centers, and other outdoor recreation facilities and attractions. Numerous nonprofit agencies rely on snowbirds to play an important role during the winter months.
For snowbirds that love recreational activities and enjoy interacting with other people, volunteering offers numerous opportunities for giving back to society.
If you choose to work while you play, enjoy your experience.
As Anne Murray sings in the popular song, “Snowbird”:
“Spread your tiny wings and fly away
And take the snow back with you
Where it came from on that day…
So, little snowbird, take me with you when you go
To that land of gentle breezes where the peaceful waters flow…”