Longer daylight hours, along with climbing temperatures, signal many northern snowbirds that it's time to head home. Before they all fly north for the summer, you might still be able to see the yellow-rumped warbler or the extravagantly-crested hooded merganser. Your best chance to catch a glimpse of these winter residents is at Cockroach Bay and Wolf Branch Creek Nature Preserves.
If you miss the winter migration, birds that summer in Hillsborough County are on their way. The majestic swallow-tailed kite can be spotted soaring over many of the nature preserves and conservation parks. Our smallest summer resident, the ruby-throated hummingbird, is often spotted (if you're quick enough) flying around the boardwalk at Lettuce Lake Conservation Park.
• Like nomads, birds migrate for survival, seeking warmer temperatures, food, and nesting areas.
• Migration seasons can change for many reasons, but the main influences are weather patterns, length of daylight hours, and changes in food supplies.
• Scientists believe migrating birds look for known landmarks and use the sun, stars, and the earth's magnetic field as their compass.