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Bird Migration Definition:|
Cyclic or periodic travel of birds, mostly done annually and linked to seasons, daylight, temperatures, returning hopefully to their original place of departure.
When an area has a balanced climate birds often stay and do not migrate.
When an area has a severe climate, a great amount of birds are migrating.
In the United states about 2/3 of all birds migrate, some short distances, some very long distances.
Birds that migrate have learned to build up fat as an energy resource.
Birds often return to the same locality where they were born, even this trip is thousands of miles long.
Birds can navigate very well using various guiding factors, as topographic landmarks, mountains, rivers, vegetation zones.
Birds have a compass sense. They are able to fly in a particular constant direction. Birds have a sensitivity to the intensity, and direction of the earth’s magnetic field.
Birds use the sun's angle during the day.
At night birds use the stars to determine their direction.
Don't try to do that in your car at night!!
Birders have different explanations
why birds migrate:
A) Birds migrate to areas
where food is more abundant
B) Birds migrate because there is
less competition for nesting space.
C) Birds migrate to get away
from colder climate.
D) Birds migrate because they need
longer daylight hours to find food.
When adequate food is not available
throughout the year, birds fly to a place
with better food supply.
Winter with snow and ice is dangerous
to birds, so many migrate for warmer weather.
Areas with Spring weather + growth,
with many flowers and insects
are good places for birds.
Migrating to Spring areas makes sense,
helping birds to raise their young ones.
As you can see on all these
Bird Migration maps,
birds follow specific routes, often quite well-defined + often over very long distances.
Along shorelines, or along rivers,
we can see the main routes of migration.
North to South in fall/autumn
South to North in Spring.
Geographic factors, ecological conditions
and meteorological conditions determine such routes.
The majority of migrants travels along broad airways.
Wind and weather can variate the flight path, which is sometimes 500 to 600 miles long.
American Golden-Plover early March to late April
Chimney Swift late March to late April
Ruby-throated Hummingbird late March to mid May
Purple Martin mid February to early March
Barn Swallow early March to early April
Northern Parula early March to mid April
Black-throated Green Warbler late March to early May
Yellow-throated Warbler early March to mid April
Black-and-white Warbler early March to late April
Hudsonian Godwit mid April to the beginning of May
Buff-breasted Sandpiper mid April to the beginning of May
Yellow-billed Cuckoo mid April to mid May
Golden-winged Warbler mid April to the beginning of May
Cerulean Warbler mid April to the beginning of May
Olive-sided Flycatcher early to late May
Eastern Wood-Pewee late April to mid May
"Traill's" Flycatcher early to late May
Magnolia Warbler late April to mid May
Blackburnian Warbler late April to mid May
Bay-breasted Warbler late April to mid May
Beginning of March the first Sandhill Crane - Antigone canadensis
flew over BSB Nature Preserve.
A few days later another group of about 200 Sandhill Cranes came from the South flying North.
Sandhill Cranes really look elegant, if you see them on a wet meadow, or if you see them in the air.
They have a tall, gray body, a crimson-cap and a wide wing span. They like to be together with other Sandhill Cranes.
Their distinctive rolling cries can be heard from miles away.
During mating time mates display to each other with exuberant but graceful dances.
Birds can fly really fast, often birds
fly even faster during migration.
During Spring migration birds often fly faster
than during the fall / autumn migration.
Over water the speed gets higher than over land.
Speeds up to 60 miles an hour were recorded
for the American Golden-Plover.
Common Loons are among the fastest birds at ~70 mph.
Flying over land gives birds the possibility
to rest and feed.
So where can we see migrating birds?|
Many birds fly at low altitudes during migration, but often to high to watch them closely.
Our small birds fly at night at 800-1600 feet.
Still difficult to watch, but in the daytime they fly often below 200 feet.
Also, there are some records:
The Bar-headed Goose has to fly over the Himalayas what brings it up to 29,500 feet above sea level.
Look at the area where the
Ruby-throated Hummingbird nests.
Canada in the North, down to the southern US.
In migration it flies down as far south as Panama.
Hummingbirds can fly nonstop
across the Gulf of Mexico.
Flycatchers can be found on similar routes.
Robins or grackles, winter in large flocks
in US-states along the Gulf of Mexico.
Tanagers + Bobolinks migrate through the eastern US,
pass Cuba, heading for southern Brazil,
Bolivia, and Argentina.
The bird with the longest migration flight is the Arctic Tern. It breeds in the northern most regions of Asia, Europe, + North America, but takes it winter vacation in the southern Pacific and Atlantic Ocean, close to Antarctica. That's a flight of ~11,000 miles.|
Some birds migrate flying during daytime, other birds fly only at night!
Most of the birds flying during the day are strong fliers, + hunters.
Pelicans, herons, birds of prey, hummingbirds, swifts, swallows and finches belong to this group.
Nighttime migrants include waterbirds, cuckoos, flycatchers, thrushes, warblers, orioles and buntings.
To fly during the night offers protection from predators. During the day they build up energy for their long-distance night flights.
Often we can see birds in groups during migration.
Birders call that gregarious.
Shorebirds + waterfowl often migrate together.
Migrating flocks will often show remarkable cohesion.
There are several reasons for traveling in groups:
It provides safety for individual birds;
predators have difficulties to pick out a specific victim.
And it helps to navigate, specially at night.
Geese, ducks, pelicans, and cranes are often seen flying in a 'V' formation.|
This formation provides less drag for most of the birds, when the front bird gets tired after a while, another leader takes over.
Human airplane pilots have learned that from our birds.
There are many risks for our migrating birds. When birds fly at night or in fog, collisions with tall structures, as radio towers, television towers, cell phones towers, often occur. |
Other human caused hazards for migrants are power lines and cables, which kill thousands of migrating birds during migration. The populations of many bird species have decreased severely over the last 100 years. An even great problem is habitat loss and degradation. Habitat needed for food and shelter in winter is disappearing in Latin America. Clearing of forestland and plowing of grassland for crops destroys the diverse habitat that is necessary for many species of birds to survive.
Less than half the birds that leave the nesting grounds in fall migration will return the following spring. Migration over water is one of the most hazardous times for birds, especially small songbirds. Millions of migrating birds perish at sea. These are often young birds or birds that are blown offshore or forced down by strong winds, hurricanes, and bad weather. Hunters kill about one fifth of the water fowl population and about 40 % are killed by predation, accidents, and environmental factors.
What do you think?|
Isn't it great what Mother Nature can do?
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