What is a Snowbird?

And When is Snowbird Season in Phoenix?

Cinema concession customers
••• Chuck Savage / Getty Images

You don't have to live in the Phoenix area very long before you start hearing about snowbirds. Snowbirds aren't really birds at all.

Snowbirds are people who come to the Phoenix area (and other parts of the Southwest) to escape the harsh winters of their main home. Typically retirees, they use their freedom from the 9 to 5 workplace to escape the cold and snow from northern U.S. states and Canada, and purchase or rent homes in Greater Phoenix.

While not everyone has the same schedule, snowbird season in Greater Phoenix is usually from October or November through April or May. Then they pack up and head up north where the summers are more tolerable.

Snowbird Factoids and Things to Consider

  • When the snowbirds are in town, restaurants seem more crowded, especially during the earlier hours.
  • In neighborhoods where there tend to be a lot of snowbirds, I hear complaints about drivers. As a generality, they do tend to be older and might drive slower.
  • Younger people tend to complain more during the winter about the preponderance of "white hairs" making the lines at Walmart longer, filling up the movie theaters, buying all the Spring Training baseball tickets, etc. Of course, they complain about all older people, and not just snowbirds. I find this humorous — if they are lucky, they'll be older someday, too!
  • Phoenix area golf courses love snowbirds, who take advantage of those weekday tee times. You can always find someone from Calgary or Minnesota on a golf course in the winter!
  • Snowbirds spend money here, pay real estate taxes here, shop here, go to the theatre and the symphony here, volunteer here. Some of them may call this their primary home for tax purposes. Other will make sure that they spend less than 180 days here so their residency is not in question.
  • Some parts of town are known for having a number of RV parks for snowbirds who choose that mode of transportation and living. East Mesa and Apache Junction have that reputation.
  • If you are spending some time in the area, you have a better chance of finding a vacation rental between April and October when some snowbirds might list their homes for rent while they aren't here.
  • Some people don't like to be called snowbirds and believe it is a derogatory term. I don't think that's the case; anyone can make any nickname sound nasty. Still, the phrase "winter visitor" is probably more politically correct.
  • I have seen estimates indicating that 400,000 snowbirds come to Arizona each winter.
  • Snowbirds spend the winter in the Phoenix area because, as they say, you don't have to shovel sunshine!