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Today’s Geography Quest is all about bird migration. Choose a well known migrating bird or several species and track their movement south for the winter.
What is Bird Migration?
Most of us are familiar with birds coming and going for the winter. Do you know the specifics? Take some time to learn about which birds migrate and where they go.
- Why do birds migrate?
- Which birds migrate? Use your field guide to learn which birds migrate.
- Where do the birds go?
- What signals do birds follow that tell them when it’s time to leave and when to return?
Map Bird Migration
- Choose a favorite bird species to follow and find out their migration path.
- Research typical migration paths for birds.
- Compare the migration of several species. Make maps for each one and see what is similar and what is different.
- Calculate the distance that bird species will travel to make sure they have resources.
What Are Some Obstacles to Bird Migration?
- Light pollution– the lights from cities can confuse birds because they rely on natural signals to find their way.
- Power lines
- Buildings– particularly tall windowed structures in cities
- Wind Mills – the large ones made for making electricity
Observe Bird Migration
- Do you keep a list of the birds you see? During the migration times, see if you find new birds at your feeder or in your yard.
- Notice the behavior of Canada Geese. They stop pairing off when they fly and fly in large groups. At the close of summer, once this starts happening, you know that they are leaving town.
- Take notice of the birds which hang out once you notice the songbirds are gone- when the migrators are in town, we see less of our winter birds though there are always some around. I always know that common summer birds are on the move when I start seeing our winter friends more often.
- Research locations where you can observe large scale migration. Here in NY, there is a spot north of here where raptors are known to gather as they migrate. We hope to catch that one year.
If you are paying attention, very often you will see birds while they are on the migration as they are passing through. Do you see birds you don’t normally see? Once spring is on the way, be on the alert for signs that the birds are returning.
Resources for Tracking Birds
- Field Guides– so you can identify birds that you see. I like Birds of New York and the accompanying CD. The same author has prepared books for other states. See if there is one for your state.
- Bird Call CDs– great for road trips and calls are a great way to identify birds nearby.
- iBird Pro– an app for both iPhones/iPads and Android devices. This is a paid app, but I bought it on sale and it’s really comprehensive. Just be careful not to use the call too often outsides as it will distract birds from the business of survival when they respond to your fake call.
- Winged Migration– a book and program all about birds on the move. They have a junior edition as well with a call CD. I checked one out from the library last night.
- Planet Earth– a DVD series from the BBC which has information on biomes around the world often referring to large bird migrations. Those of you with Amazon Prime can watch instantly. Nice. We own this one and it’s been a great resource.
Pay attention to the habits of birds which stay year-round as well. Once the migrators leave, they move around. I normally don’t see cedar waxwings during the summer, but once the leaves are all gone, they will swoop down on some berry bushes next to our house. Then they are off…probably stopping by on their way to their winter territory.