During our just-completed trip across the deserts of southern Arizona and southeastern California, the persistence of the snowbirds was one of the most striking features. I’d noticed them when I was down in Yuma in April 2010, but that was late in the season. Late February-early March is earlier, and they were everywhere. Canadian license plates were the most common, but they were from the full range of northern cold places, south for warmer climates just like the migrating birds after which they’re named.
Lissa took this picture at one of the BLM “camping” areas along the Colorado River just upstream from Imperial Dam. It’s just a tiny snapshot, but it gives you a flavor of the way they spread out into the desert. This is an example of the formal government-sanctioned campground version, which seems to really just create large parking areas with vague scenic value. There were also huge commercial ventures, especially among the tribes on the lower river. And then there were the squatters, people who just seem to pull their big expensive RVs off into the desert wherever they want.
I found a reference to a study that put the number in Arizona a decade ago at 300,000.