Look Up! Fall Bird Migration is Upon Us  

Photography featured in this blog is by Zachary Raymond Vaughan.

Scroll through the gallery to see birds native to the area or birds that pass through during migration.



As the leaves begin to change colors and the air becomes crisper, another fascinating natural phenomenon is upon us - fall bird migration! Every year, thousands of birds make their way through this region as they travel south for the winter. Read below and learn everything you need to know about this remarkable event. 

Pittsburgh's geographical location makes it an ideal stopover for migratory birds. Situated along the Allegheny Mountains, the city provides a natural corridor for birds traveling between their breeding grounds in Canada and their wintering destinations in Central and South America. This makes Pittsburgh an excellent spot for birdwatching enthusiasts and nature lovers alike. 

The fall migration usually begins around late August and continues through November, with peak activity occurring in September and October. During this time, more than 200 different species of birds can be spotted in the area, including warblers, sparrows, thrushes, hawks, and even some endangered species. The diversity of birds is simply astounding! 

Why do birds follow migration patterns? Birds migrate to move from areas of low or decreasing resources to areas of high or increasing resources. The two primary resources being sought are food and nesting locations. Birds that nest in the Northern Hemisphere tend to migrate northward in the spring to take advantage of burgeoning insect populations, budding plants, and an abundance of nesting locations. As winter approaches and the availability of insects and other food drops, the birds move south again. (Source: All About Birds). 



To witness this awe-inspiring spectacle, head to some of Pittsburgh's prime birding locations in the parks. Frick Park is a popular spot known for its lush forests and abundance of migrating birds, including the spicebush, which is a nutritionally dense native shrub. This plant is indispensable to migrating birds because it offers ample nutrition, fueling their plight back south. You can even rent a pair of binoculars through our Backpack Lending Program.  

Some fun facts about local bird migration: 

  • Some birds migrate north in the spring, and others migrate north in the winter 
  • Some local migrating birds you might catch in the parks include the scarlet tanager, the dark-eyed junco, and the white-throated sparrow 
  • Birds migrating south sing during the night! Head out to the parks at dusk to hear them sing
  • Birds seek out caterpillars and berries for fuel while heading south – which can be found in abundance in parks such as Frick Park  
  • Bird plumage is less vibrant in the Fall since there is no need to attract a mate 
  • Pittsburgh is a popular bird migration stop due to its insect diversity 


Resources, such as Merlin, show migration maps for specific birds to help you identify regional birds. Above is the dark-eyed junco migration map.



This fall, don't miss the opportunity to witness the breathtaking spectacle of bird migration in the lush woodlands of Frick Park, which is full of diverse plant species that offer birds a critical fuel source. Whether you're a seasoned birder or just starting out, our birding events will leave you with a newfound appreciation for the wonders of nature. Let's celebrate and protect these incredible migratory birds as they grace our city with their presence. 

Stephen Bucklin, Naturalist Educator for the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy, puts his bachelor’s degree in Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior to use while educating visitors about the wonders of nature at the Frick Environmental Center. He shares some of his favorite mobile applications you can use in the parks to assist you in spotting migrating birds! 

Don’t miss some of our upcoming programming: 

  • Birds in My Backyard: Storytime and Art-Making – Frick Environmental Center - Saturday, September 30th from 10:30 – 11:30 AM) Register Here
  • Birding Pittsburgh’s Parks – Riverview Park – Monday, September 11th from 8:00 – 9:30 AM Register Here
  • Birding Pittsburgh's Parks – Emerald View Park – Monday, October 9th from 8:00 – 9:30 AM Register Here
  • Birding Pittsburgh’s Parks – August Wilson Park – Monday, November 13th from 8:00 – 9:30 AM Register Here



Would you like to learn more about birds? Mobile applications allow you to immerse yourself in birdwatching in Pittsburgh’s Parks. Check out some of the resources below: 

Merlin, Identify the birds you see or hear with Merlin Bird ID 

Bird Cast, Showcasing the spectacle of bird migration 

Lights Out by the Audubon Society, Providing Safe Passage for Nocturnal Migrants 


This blog edition was written in tandem between Stephen Bucklin, Naturalist Educator, and Bethany Wells, Marketing Manager

A Hawthorne plant found in Frick Park that will provide berries for migrating birds
A Hawthorne plant found in Frick Park that will provide berries for migrating birds
A Spicebush in Frick Park that will also provide highly nutritious berries to multiple bird species
A Spicebush in Frick Park that will also provide highly nutritious berries to multiple bird species