20 Interesting Notes on Migrating Birds

As fall touches the air again, migration is in full swing. We have been seeing the occasional warbler passing through as well as the returning sandpipers to our beaches. Each bird has to make the decision to migrate, whether to endure the long flights and innumerable dangers, or remain to face a sometimes rigorous winter. There are dangers both ways…

Here are some interesting notes we have found on bird migration:

1. Birds that breed in the high arctic or are dependent on insects, must leave northern areas and go south before their food  supply disappears.

2. Some seed eaters such as tits and finches also migrate as the seed supply diminishes.

3. Waterfowl and ducks are partial migrants and often remain in more temperate areas where the water doesn’t freeze and where food is still available.

4. Some birds like Jays and tits, stay put and store food to help get them through the winter.

5. Birds that migrate have to prepare by laying down the fat needed to help see them through their journey.

6. Some migrations involve long distances. The Arctic Tern spends the winter in the Antarctic and the summer in the arctic; it flies 9,000 miles each way.

7. Some birds fly both day and night, like birds of prey, storks, and cranes; these heavy birds try to save energy by soaring rather than flapping.

8. Many birds are considered day migrants, like red-winged Blackbirds, Barn Swallows and the American Robin.

9. Night migrants include warblers, flycatchers, and Grosbeaks.

10. Birds use several “flyways” in North America that largely follow the courses of major rivers, this way they can stop when they want or need to.

11. Some birds like finches and crows follow the coast.

12. Birds are natural navigators and can navigate by sight.

13. They know their directions by using the sun and the stars.

14. Birds rely on their internal clocks, which tell them when to start their journey.

15. They develop a map-sense as they get older, and learn from experience.

16. Research shows there may be a magnetic component to migration which helps birds to find their way.

17. Half of all birds migrate.

18. Most birds travel alone, but some will migrate in flocks with one or more species. This provides greater protection, and help for younger birds being guided by more experienced birds.

19. Some birds make epic, non-stop journeys. An example of this would be shorebirds which are not able to land on water and must finish their migration in a single flight.

20. Birds learn use air and sea currents, as well as temperature to navigate.

We are located along the Pacific “flyway”.  Here are a few of the birds we saw on a recent birding trip to Morro Bay, California.  From left to right:  Marbled Gotwit, Least and Western Sandpipers, Semipalmanted Plover.


marbled-gotwit least-and-western-sandpipers semipalmated-plover