The Migratory Processes of Snowbirds: Where They Come From and End Up

by Alex ThatcherDecember 28, 2016

Snowbird Travelers: America’s Seasonal Flock

Each year, flocks of “snowbirds” travel cross-country in search of warmth and respite from cold winter temperatures. These snowbirds, however, are not actual birds of a feather, rather snowbirds are people who identify as seasonal travelers.

So who are these snowbirds, where do they come from, and where do they end up? Read on to learn about migratory patterns of our nation’s seasonal travelers.
snowbird travelers

Snowbird Origins

The origins of the term “snowbird” do in fact tie to a species: the Dark-eyed Junco bird. But in 1923, the word “snowbird” was coined to describe droves of seasonal workers who moved south in the winter in search of additional work and income. Today, these snowbirds and seasonal travelers are largely retirees who migrate annually to warmer climates during the winter months of the year.

Snowbird Demographics: Who Are These travelers?

The snowbird population consists primarily of baby boomers, adults born in the years following World War II. With the majority of snowbirds between the ages of 50 and 70, this generation is well-educated, financially secure, and active — a solid foundation for the snowbird lifestyle of adventure and migration.

Another snowbird demographic: many are Canadians. While most snowbirds alternate between two destinations within the United States, about 10% of snowbirds reside permanently outside of the United States. Nearly 80% of the international snowbirds actually come from Canada.
snowbird lifestyle

Migratory Patterns: Where Are All These Snowbirds Headed?

Despite common beliefs that all snowbirds flock to sunny Florida, snowbirds actually settle all over the United States. Migratory patterns resolve in places including Las Vegas, California, and Hawaii. However, snowbirds do tend to follow two primary trajectories: west coast birds fly to Arizona, and east coast birds sail on towards Florida.

Residents of New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania escape cold winters by spending three to six months of the year in Florida. Towns like New Smyrna Beach, Florida’s Secret Pearl, is an affordable snowbird destination along Florida’s artsy east coast. Luxurious lake front homes in New Smyrna, such as this one, are drawing snowbirds with price tags around the $300,000 range.

Upper left US residents are primarily drawn to Arizona. Tucson, in particular, attracts a large snowbird population each year. Sited at a lower elevation in comparison to other Arizona towns, Tucson boasts warmer (and more predictable) winter temperatures. With a mix of RV parks, long-term condominium rentals, and fully furnished homes, Tucson offers snowbirds a warm respite that balances urban and rural life.

What Drives Snowbird Flight?

Aside from the advantageous weather situation, what draws snowbirds away from their primary homes and established routines? The snowbird lifestyle is more than just a retirement hobby, rather, snowbird living centers on practicality.

As people age, winter weather conditions pose serious concerns: a slip on the ice becomes highly dangerous; maintaining a clear path to a front door in several feet of snow is too straining; and the low temperature limits outdoor lifestyle and health routines like walking and bike riding. By migrating to a warmer climate, snowbirds not only avoid harsh winter climate, but they also seek environments where they can avoid injuries and maintain healthy habits.

Community also drives snowbirds to their warmer homes. Early snowbirds often start as vacationers, but most eventually evolve into flocks. Established groups of friends and family band together and find community with similar ethnic, cultural, or religious groups existing within many snowbird communities. Snowbirds are in fact continuing to build life with one another.
snowbird lifestyle

Dispelling Snowbird Myths

Younger generations or established community groups may see snowbirds as disruptions to the local economy, as mere tourists, or another form of inconvenience. But it’s time to dispel these myths.

Snowbirds are trying new places on a whim: Wrong. Visits turn into established patterns, and each visit requires careful planning and thought: winterizing the your primary home, packing and securing insurance documents, resisting a change of address, ordering long term medications… the list goes on!

Snowbirds are burdens on the local economy: False. If anything, snowbirds are major contributors to the local economy. Look at Palm Beach County as an example: in addition to the county’s standing 1,335,415 residents, annual snowbirds bring an addition 143,837 residents with a financial impact estimated in the billions.

Snowbirds, Take Flight!

Whether or not you’re in a stage of life where being a snowbird is a realistic pattern for you, snowbird migration offers health, community, and economic benefits to people and areas across the country. Is snowbird migration in your future? Visit a warmer state this winter, listen to those who have made the journey, and who knows, before you know it, homes.com could help you find your winter home.


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About The Author
Alex Thatcher
Alex is a home staging expert by day and a writer by night. She loves working in the home and interior design sphere, and is fascinated by what makes people light up when they walk into a room. When she isn't arranging flowers and making sure furniture looks appealing and cozy for prospective buyers, she loves to write about any and all things home and design related, from DIY to organization tips.

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