June 19, 2024

8 Bird Migration Myths, From Past to Present

Latest Science

By Ken Keffer

As soon as positioned a seemingly easy question to our father, my more youthful brother. “Why do geese fly south for winter?”
Our dad responded with a lovely thesis about bird migration. He talked about the seasons, discussed food schedule, he even discussed the aerodynamic flight patterns of the classic “V” development.
My brother attentively listened, before bolding stating that our daddy was incorrect. “No papa. Its because it is too far to walk.”
Bird migration has no simple answers. It has perplexed individuals for centuries. Much of the earliest theories now seem over-the-top. As researchers continue to decipher migration mysteries, some of these misconceptions have long been debunked. Others continue widely to this day.
Lets set the record straight and think about 8 migration myths of the past and present.

Typical redstart (Phoenicurus phoenicurus) are a European migrant. © hedera.baltica/ Flickr

A prothonotary warbler. © K Pennington/TNC Photo Contest 2019

Noted thinker Aristotle suggested that redstarts change into robins. This is a timeless example of connection does not equal causation.
The thinking behind this myth is that the timing of the departure of one species corresponds with the arrival of the other.
A comparable idea was that garden warblers transformed into blackcaps. Redstarts and garden warblers are summertime birds in Greece, while robins and blackcaps are still visible in the winter.

March 22, 2022

Types Shifters

Moon Landing?

2 cranes stroll past the moon in Barinas, Venezuela. © Jesse Jose Romero Hernandez/TNC Photo Contest 2019

A rufous hummingbird. © Laura Erickson/ Flickr (utilized with permission).

Since of their small size, one myth that continues to make the rounds is that hummingbirds move on the backs of geese.
People have a difficult time thinking that the most mini of birds can move so far. Yet, these tiny fliers make epic migration journeys. Rufous hummingbirds cover 8,000 miles in a clockwise loop on their yearly migration course which can stretch from Alaska to southern Mexico.
Ruby-throated hummingbirds can fly continuously throughout the Gulf of Mexico throughout spring migration. Canada geese are wintering further and further north, and we now understand that hummingbirds are taking a trip greater distances than much of the geese migrants.

Maybe the most widespread present misconception that continues to persist is that leaving feeders up avoids migration.
The thinking goes that birds wont have the ability to pull themselves away from endless bounty.
Although I can completely relate to that logic when I stomach up at my preferred buffet, up until now, Ive constantly handled to leave in the past winter sets in. Once again, hummingbirds are often the birds of concern for this misconception, yet these small beasts can be quite hardy.
The instinct to move is a strong one. A few laggers can remain far north in winter season, however the feeders arent to blame.

Hitchhiking Hummingbirds

Tags: Birds, Migrations, Outdoor Rec, Traveling Naturalist, Wildlife.

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A flock of sandhill cranes flies through a late fall landscape in the Pacific Northwest. © Gary Grossman/TNC Photo Contest 2019.

Someplace on the world, birds are moving every single day of the year. A mix of migration restlessness and day length helps keep them carrying on their yearly journeys, not the day-to-day temperatures.
Naturalists hypothesize about the weather condition practically as much as farmers, however birds wintering in Panama do not understand when the very first 70-degree Fahrenheit spring day gets here in Wisconsin.
Thats not to say that weather condition doesnt impact bird movements. Although it isnt triggering migrations, birds do travel throughout beneficial winds and hunker down when conditions are bad.

Weather or Not to Fly.

Bird migration has no easy responses. People have a hard time thinking that the most miniature of birds can move so far. Lots of swallow types construct mud structure nests, so the birds are typically seen on exposed patches of wet dirt gathering mouthfuls of natures spackle.
Numerous hatch-year birds need to browse alone to winter varieties theyve never ever been. When discussing his book A Season on the Wind: Inside the World of Spring Migration, Kenn Kaufman stated during a Living On Earth interview, “If you could look down on North America from external area on a night at the peak of migration to see where the birds were going, you would not see rivers of birds flowing towards the north.

Long Winters Nap.

Migration is taking place all around. When discussing his book A Season on the Wind: Inside the World of Spring Migration, Kenn Kaufman said during a Living On Earth interview, “If you might look down on North America from outer space on a night at the peak of migration to see where the birds were going, you wouldnt see rivers of birds flowing towards the north. It would look more like a blanket of birds being pulled northward.”.
Like numerous great thinkers from Aristotle to my brother, if you are paying attention, you too can be perplexed, marveled, and inspired by the phenomenon of migration.

Evening grosbeaks at a bird feeder. © David Larson.

There are variations of a misconception that some species of swallows hibernate overwinter buried in mud.
This concept stayed relatively widespread until the late 1800s. After an extended lack, big flocks of swallows arrive back to their reproducing variety en masse. Numerous swallow species construct mud structure nests, so the birds are typically seen on exposed spots of damp dirt collecting mouthfuls of natures spackle.
The hibernation aspect of this myth isnt as improbable as it may appear. Some swifts and hummingbirds can slow down their metabolisms to get in a torpor-like state, practically a mini hibernation, lasting a few hours at a time. Common poorwills have been tape-recorded in a hibernation like state going for as long as 3 months.

While people rely heavily on learned habits, in most cases birds manage on impulse. When discovered migration paths are passed down generation to generation, there are a couple of instances.
Cranes normally stay together as family systems on the initial migration, more youthful birds finding out conventional stopover sites on the journey to the wintering grounds. It is a misconception that all birds must discover a travel schedule from their parents.
Lots of hatch-year birds need to navigate alone to winter varieties theyve never ever been. These paths cover hundreds or countless miles. Birds use a number of tools to aid for orienteering including the stars, the sun, and Earths electromagnetic field.
Research study shows that some birds are born with the inherent sense of distance and instructions theyll require for migration. Natural landmarks including mountains, rivers, and lakes can likewise assist in birds understanding where they are on future trips.
Researchers are still learning more about migration and reacting to the needs of birds. The Nature Conservancy has actually partnered with NASA and others on the BirdReturns program determining essential pop-up wetland environments.

Follow the Map.

A Nashville warbler bounces around a tree, trying to find insects inside the blooms. © Andy Raupp/ TNC Photo Contest 2019.

Bird Feeder Junkies.

Aerial image of migrating Canada geese, Wyoming. © Kathy Lichtendahl/ TNC.

To early observers of wildlife, lots of birds merely disappeared in the fall. They would reemerge the next year, but where exactly they went was up for speculation.
Folks developed some pretty fantastic concepts regarding where birds were whenever they were away. In the 17th century, minister and researcher Charles Morton believed the most sensible location for birds to disappear to was … the moon.
Not everybody at the time was buying into this concept. Francis Willughby, a leader in classification well prior to Linnaeuss time, more accurately believed that numerous European birds more than likely wintered in Africa.

Knowing that all birds migrate south for winter season should be a kindergarten graduation requirement. It has actually turned into one of the fundamental occupants of childhood, and it is a belief that lots of adults still cling to.
Undoubtedly, all birds move south for winter season. (Do individuals in the southern hemisphere think that moving birds just fly north?).
This isnt as much of a misconception as it is an oversimplification. Migration is endlessly fascinating and each types, and even every person, approaches it distinctively.
Lots of passerines like warblers, tanagers, and flycatchers, do move better to the equator in winter and return towards the poles for the breeding season. Waterfowl may just go as far south as it requires to discover open water.
Irruptive migrants like crossbills and snowy owls do not move at all some years, but then these birds can reveal up practically anywhere throughout other journeys. Migration isnt simply south for the winter.

A typical poorwill in Saguaro National Park. © Julio Mulero/ Flickr.