Man has been fascinated by the migration of birds since the very beginning of history.
The migration of birds is the movement of birds south in the autumn and north in the spring, or moving from lowlands to highlands, or from inland to the coast.
Some birds migrate to warmer climates because they couldn’t survive winter conditions. Also those birds that feed on certain insects, or small rodents, wouldn’t find any food in winter.
Whatever the reason is, how do they actually know when to make this long flight of migration? It is believed that birds can tell when the days get shorter (and longer in spring) and this acts as an ‘alarm clock’ to tell them that it is time to move along.
So it is the change in the length of the day and the disappearance of food that tell the bird to head to warmer places. There are many other factors involved, of course, and many things we still don’t understand, but these are certainly the main reasons birds migrate.
Now we know why birds migrate, the next question is how far do they actually fly to find better conditions?
The champions among birds that migrate are the Arctic Terns. These amazing birds will travel as much as 22,000 miles during the course of a year, going bad and forth.
It nests over a wide range from Arctic Circle to as far south as Massachusetts.
It will take this bird about twenty weeks to make its trip down to the antarctic region and it averages about 1000 miles a week.
Most land birds only make short journeys during their migration.
But there is one bird, the American golden plover, that makes a long nonstop flight over the open ocean. It may fly from Nova Scotia directly to South America. This is a distance of about 2,400 miles, without even stopping.
We are not certain that birds start and end their migration on exactly the same day each year. But there is one bird who comes pretty close to it.
It is said that the famous swallows of Capistrano, California, are thought to leave on October 23 and return on March 19, but of course their date of departure and arrival has been found to vary from year to year.