October may start slowly, as it can still be somewhat warm, and so spottings can be rare. Do not get discouraged though as the bulk of birds are usually in place by November 1, making late October the best time to see snowbirds fresh from their natural habitat.
Snowbirds in general tend to be older, not starting their annual migrations until after their fledglings have left the nest, and are also usually covered in grey feathers, although there can be small variations.
When they first arrive snowbirds are fairly easy to distinguish from the native population. They are generally seen on surface streets and freeways and are easy to pick out as they are going at least 15 MPH slower than the posted speed limit. By February they have sped up somewhat and can be a bit harder to identify. If you find yourself having a hard time picking them out, here are some helpful things to be on the lookout for;
1) A dead giveaway is the "plumage" on the backs of the vehicles. Anything that says Michigan, Minnesota, or Iowa is a good determining factor. Also, anything related in any way to Canada (usually but not limited to British Columbia and Alberta) is a clear sign that you have spotted the International Snowbird.
2) If you find this to be too difficult just try checking any small SUV manufactured by Lexus or Acura, as that is generally where they "nest."
3) Snowbirds tend to be fascinated with "nature" and can be identified by the slowing down to a crawl every time a saguaro cactus is passed.
Here are a few photos we have complied to help you--
Outside of roadways there are several locations where snowbirds can be regularly located and, if desired, photographed. The first and foremost location is a golf course or golf club. A large portion of the population of this location will be snowbirds, although they are harder to distinguish here since they tend to blend with the natives.
Next is the RV parks. These are made up solely of snowbirds, but they tend to be the less vibrant types. Lastly is the grocery store. You can find all types here, and again the Lexus or Acura in parking lot is a giveaway.
Finally, if you are still having trouble finding a snowbird in the wild after all this, or you are obsessed with finding the rarer International Snowbird, you can take a weekend getaway or long day trip for the devoted bird watcher. From Phoenix if you head weston I10 for 2 hours, you will be in Quartzsite, AZ, the winter nesting grounds of the Canadian RV Snowbird. This is a guaranteed way to get your fill of snowbirds before they head back north for the summer months.
Please remember that Snowbirds are a protected species here in Arizona, therefore and hunting or harassing of them is illegal. We hope this has been helpful!