Many studies, largely from cool-temperate latitudes, have investigated the relationship between the timing of biological events and changes in climatic conditions during the past few decades. Relatively little is known about the response of plants and animals at lower latitudes. Here we show that the average first spring flight of 23 butterfly species in the Central Valley of California has advanced to an earlier date over the past 31 years. Among the species that have appeared significantly earlier, the average shift is 24 days. Climatic conditions (largely winter temperature and precipitation) are found to explain a large part of the variation in changing date of first flight. These results suggest a strong ecological influence of changing climatic conditions on a suite of animals from a mid-latitude, Mediterranean climate.