Why do the swallows come back to Capistrano? While legend has it that a miracle was involved, the swallows’ flight pattern is actually the result of much more earthly concerns. The barn swallows are following their instincts to migrate, and are returning from spending the winter in warmer southern locations.
During spring migration, swallows and other species follow the Pacific Flyway, which stretches from Alaska to South America. Along this route, migratory birds search for food and shelter in a variety of habitats, including the temperate Mediterranean climate zone of southern California. According to the National Audubon Society, at least a billion birds migrate along the Pacific Flyway each year.
Colorful species such as the western tanager (pictured), lazuli bunting, black-headed grosbeak and Bullock’s oriole can be easily spotted. Special birding programs in the Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks focus on spotting these species, but really any outdoor adventure during the spring can be a birding trip. Here is a list of upcoming birding programs, as well as parks with daily access and great birding opportunities. More info on the free birding programs, including registration, can be found at www.LetsGoOutside.org/activities.