There is a miracle happening in the U.S. right now and it’s called bird migration. No matter where you live in this country, the onset of spring has started the courageous journey of our feathered friends. Some birds do not migrate at all, some birds fly hundreds of miles.
There are many different kinds of birds and different migration patterns for all of them. The normal movement involves a species flying from their food-rich wintering grounds to their breeding grounds in spring, then back again in fall, usually in a north-south pattern. But there is nothing “normal” about these tiny creatures flying hundreds of miles amidst the danger of hunters, predation, stormy weather, stressful exertion and habitat destruction. They are true warriors.
In the U.S. there are three to four major “flyway” routes that most birds tend to follow, based primarily on topographical features: the Atlantic, Central and Pacific Flyways. Another flyway is the Mississippi which is often an overlap from the Central.
How do they know where to go? It’s different for every bird, but the amount of light in a day is a big factor, and other things figure in like the earth’s magnetic fields, celestial signals, memory, and genetics. Why do they migrate? For food. If it is too cold for food in their breeding grounds, they spend the cold months in the south where food is readily available.
This bird pictured here is one of my favorite migratory birds in our area, the black-headed grosbeak. We heard our first grosbeak this year on April 3. Regardless of whatever chaos or uncertainty is going on in my life, that sound, that single-note springtime chirp, bathes me with peace…for I know that all is right in the world. So far only one or two males are here. More will arrive in the next few weeks, both genders, and they’ll stay here in the vicinity and breed. Then in July our mountaintop will be a-flutter with adult and juvenile grosbeaks flying in every direction. Their heavenly melodic song will be filling the air. Like all the tides of life on earth, in August things will change; they will leave our mountain and fly back down to central Mexico.
We have many other birds who nest here, some who pass on through to go further north to their breeding grounds, and many who stay here year round. The grosbeaks didn’t always migrate here to our property. A few years ago we saw one on a neighbor’s feeder which inspired us to create a suitable habitat. Then after years of consistent sunflower seed at a clean feeder, a safe environment without threatening domestic pets, and plenty of water and cover, they got the message it was a suitable venue for raising their young. This spring marks our fourth successful year with the grosbeaks.
What birds have arrived to your area? If you don’t have a yard or feeders, maybe you have noticed a new bird sound or a different looking bird near your home in the past few weeks. If you haven’t noticed anything different in the world, you’re missing out. Look around, listen. It’s time to celebrate this new season of glorious life.