Bird migration has been studied and observed for thousands of years but still remains a mystery to scientists and researchers. How does a bird that weighs less than a 16 ounce glass of water fly nonstop, cover thousands of miles, and survive the ultimate challenge of endurance and expenditure of energy?
First, we need to look at the different types of bird migration. Minnesota is home to over 300 bird species with many of them being migratory. For some, their migration is just seasonal from north to south to escape the deep snow and to find food sources. A majority of our colorful songbirds such as Orioles, Tanagers, Vireos, and the 20 Warblers species are known as neotropical migrants. These birds go much farther than most—they migrate as far as Central and South America!
Migration is the means of survival for many of our feathered friends. The ability of flight is one of the greatest adaptations in the avian world. Birds can take flight at a moment’s notice to avoid danger or escape the winter season. One theory suggests that as the global climate changed in and out of the Ice Age, migration routes changed to escape the climate. Over time, birds continued these migration patterns where they would nest and raise young in the North and return to winter in the South.
How do birds prepare for these long flight migrations? The shorter amount of daylight triggers birds to prepare and migrate. Birds go into a premigration hyperphagic phase to consume food and store as fat for energy. Many birds can double their body mass just before migration. The Red Knot is the champion of migration traveling over 6,000 miles nonstop. To accomplish such a feat, it must increase its body weight by 60%. To put this into perspective, a 175 pound man would have to consume 46 Big Macs per day for 14 days!
How do birds find their way on their migration route? This has been a mystery for a long time. The moon and stars were once thought to be a factor. Birds use more than one “guide” such as magnetic forces. We still don’t have all the answers. As new technology becomes available, we will get more answers in solving, or at least trying to understand, this natural wonder.
Besides finding enough food resources before migration, birds also have to deal with hazards along the way including windmills, glass (residential and commercial) skyscrapers, and guy wires from cell towers. Each year millions of birds die from these hazards most being from window collisions.
Habitat conservation is critical for many birds like the Red Knot to have places to rest, recover, and refuel. Our National Wildlife Refuge system was created on these principles primarily for waterfowl and other water birds. By creating a bird friendly yard that provides food, water, shelter and place to nest you can create a refuge for our feathered friends. MN Backyard Birds can help you attract and enjoy more colorful songbirds to your backyard and help you make your yard more bird friendly with native plantings and the best bird feeders
Judd Brink is the owner of MN Backyard Birds in the Brainerd Lakes area. MN Backyard Birds provides birdscaping for homeowners and businesses to attract and enjoy more colorful songbirds. The business was recently featured on Kare 11 news with Belinda Jensen and MN Bound with Ron Schara. For more information about birdscaping or a free backyard consultation visit our new website birdminnesota.com or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or (218) 838-4784.