In the urban dictionary a snowbird is an elderly yankee who travels south when it is too cold in the northern climes of New York, Ohio or Michigan. Meriam-Webster generalized the brand more by saying a snowbird is “one who travels to warm climes for the winter”. While this last definition makes it difficult, I maintain Chris and I are not snowbirds but rather declare we are Weather Explorers. Further, we specialize in discovering and residing in mild to moderate weather areas. This tough job is fraught with risks such as mornings with frost and even the odd chance of having to use an air conditioner.
Probably easier to simply think of us as storm chasers without the storms.
Being weather explorers in constant search of our speciality we find ourselves residing in places typically associated with the snowbird genre. As a result we also quite often become erroneously classified as snowbirders. To clarify this common case of mistaken identity, Chris and I have come up with several characteristics to assist the observer. While some of the differences may be very subtle, two techniques have a proven track record and by using just these you can quickly spot snowbirders in their natural environment - out in the wild so to speak.
When first encountering what you believe may be a weather explorer or snowbirder you will need to make a gender assumption. If the gender is believed to be female, your next observation will at the head. If male, your next look should be directed at the feet. The reason will become clear shortly.
Weather explorers, particularily those with a mild to moderate weather speciality tend to not worry too much about their hair. Headgear such as hats are not for style but to provide shade or protection from variances in the weather (usually encounterd during moderate conditions – see rain). Snowbirders on the other hand are usually well turned out and take great care in not developing “hat hair”. When hatless, the female snowbirder can be quickly categorized by the purple, blue, or pink hair tints. Note, some experience is now required to distinguish intentional coloring from unintentional consequences of attempting to hide grey or white hair.
The male snowbirder is easily spotted by the combination of knee socks and sandals. A confirmation of this will be the bright plaid long golfing shorts worn in combination. Conversely old, worn, flip flops are a virtual sure sign of a weather explorer.
Obvious snowbird trap. No challenge. Avoid when possible.
There are many other differences and we highly recommend those of you who wish to perfect your observation skills to identify potential snowbird gathering areas. We recommend honing your skills while still challenging yourself by avoiding the obvious areas such as flea markets, anywhere in Florida, or Branson Misouri. Here are three common and easy ways to spot gathering areas:
First up, look to the grocery stores. Areas with multiple stores in fairly close proximity will need a bit of scouting out to ensure your time is not wasted. Yuma Arizona is a fine example with multiple Walmarts, Albertsons and some other grocery stores. A really quick and easy way to see if the store caters to the locals or to a snowbird population is to visit the cereal aisle. Any store that is fully stocked with sugary, cartooney covered cereal boxes yet has a descimated shredded wheat shelf (or other fiber type cereal) will definitely be a target rich environment heavily frequented by snowbirds.
Another dead give away? This one applies to stores having food court or other fast food type restaraunt within. The first clue will be if there is a line of shopping carts outside of the eating area with groceries bagged and waiting. Almost guaranteed, if you take a peek inside you will hit the jackpot with a plethora of snowbirds in their habitual light cotton plaid shirts, bermuda shorts and socks inside their sandals. For the most part, they will all be having a small ice cream cone.
A bit tougher one is the restaraunt and can require some research combined with on-scene scouting. Establishments offering buy one get one free, all you can eat, or have a history of serving very generous portions that can be split will be excellent candidates. If the parking lot is full between 4:30pm and 6:30pm yet empties out completely by 7:30pm your chances have improved expotentially. With this in mind, understand thepossibility of snowbird spotting is dramatically reduced the closer you approach the 7:30pm nesting time.
There are so many other ways to spot the snowbird and Chris and I encourage you to discover your own particular style. Just know there are also Weather Explorers like us out there and we aren't afraid of snow or bad storms; we just prefer to stay within our specialty.