You might have heard the term ‘flying south for the winter.’ The term refers to the practice where birds fly across vast distances to avoid the cold, harsh winter. Birds migrate south for the winter every year and will return to where they were born once the cold passes and food is readily available once more.
What is Bird Migration?
Migration is when an animal moves from region or habitat to another during a particular season. Birds migrate twice a year, in order to find food, breed, grow or to find a better climate. Birds migrate to places which are warm, have an adequate food supply and are safe for breeding. Even birds that do not fly can migrate, such as penguins that migrate by swimming.
Unlike other animals, birds are unable to build nests that would ensure that they would survive the winter. It is an unpredictable season where food is scarce. Therefore many birds will migrate half-way across the world to search for warm climates to spend the winter months. Birds don’t change the places they migrate to every year. They follow patterns of movement that have remained unchanged for generations.
Which birds don’t migrate and why?
In tropical regions, birds do not find the need to migrate as the weather is always warm and there is a steady food supply. However, in colder regions, birds migrate south when days shorten and food supplies decline. Birds migrate to cooler regions in the summer in order to breed and fly to warmer regions in the winter. Not all birds migrate. Familiar species such as pigeons, crows and ravens are able to survive in winter and do not fly to warmer climates.
Birds prepare for the long journey by entering a state called ‘hyperphagia’; where they bulk up on food in order to store fat. The fat will later convert into energy during the taxing journey. Some birds, like the blackpoll warbler, almost double their body weight.
How far can migrating birds fly non-stop?
Some birds fly record distances to keep up their lifestyle. The Arctic tern, for example, is used to cold climates. Instead of spending their winter on a beach somewhere, they will fly approximately 38,600 kms from the Arctic Circle to Antarctica where they are able to enjoy a similar cool climate. This pattern is reversed for birds that are native to the Southern hemisphere. However, since there is more continental land in the Northern hemisphere, these patterns are more visible when it is winter there and hence the term- flying south for the winter.
Can you name some of the birds that migrate over large distances for the winter? There are even some that fly over the Himalayas.
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