Bird migrations are one of Mother Nature’s most impressive displays that take place each year. Some will travel thousands of miles for days at a time as they head across the world. So how do they do it? It turns out that it’s pretty magical behind the scenes of every bird migration.
They follow specific routes
It turns out that migrating birds have specific routes they follow each year, even if they don’t fly. That’s right; even ground-dwelling birds have been known to migrate, as the Adélie penguin will trek for 8,000 miles through Antarctica in a bid to get to better weather and more food. It seems there is no end to the number of birds that migrate as at least half of the world’s 10,000 species of bird will migrate each year, with some following the same routes from north to south and back.
How do birds know where to go?
Believe it or not, but there are plenty of ways that birds know where to go when they migrate. They often use celestial cues, like the position of the moon, stars, and sun. However, adult birds also have a magnetic compass, so they never get lost. Some species migrate alone, such as common cuckoos who travel almost 1,500 miles. Others travel in groups, meaning they have the others to rely on as they head through the sky. So what about the ones who have never migrated before? The jury is out on whether it’s a learned or inherited behavior.
How can birds know when it’s time to migrate?
Many birds use environmental clues to know when it’s time to migrate, such as changing weather or the number of hours of daylight each day. Others have stimulating hormones that tell the birds when it’s time to fly the nest for the year. Another cue the birds have that it’s time to migrate is their internal biological clock that happens each year as the seasons start to change. It’s something that scientists have been studying for years, and they still don’t have all the answers.
There are plenty of motivations
So why do birds migrate in the first place? There are plenty of reasons they take to the skies and fly for thousands of miles. Food is the main drive as the seasonal changes mean it can be tougher to find something to eat in their native home, and they have to find food sources elsewhere. Others migrate because of the weather, which can sometimes bring about parasites and new predators if the birds stick around. As if that wasn’t enough, breeding season is another factor that can lead birds to migrate across the world.
There are so many reasons that bird migrations take place, and each great migration is a new joy for the eyes. They often see thousands of birds take to the sky and put on impressive displays as they travel thousands of miles to new lands for months at a time before making their way back home.