This paper reports on the total distribution of spring migration timing of willow warbler, chiffchaff and pied flycatcher at locations in the UK, Germany, Russia and Finland. This is the first time that high-quality data based on known-effort monitoring has been examined on a continental scale. First arrival dates, commonly reported in the literature, were positively correlated with mean arrival dates although they would not make good predictors of the latter. At all locations, at least one aspect of the arrival distribution of each species had got significantly earlier in recent years. The trend towards earliness was associated with warmer local temperatures and more positive winter North Atlantic Oscillation index. In years that were early, the arrival distribution became more elongated and skewed. Researchers should now investigate the consequences of earlier arrival on current and future bird populations.