Thursday, October 15, 2020

Phillip Elden on Migration

Phillip Elden

Everyone knows that birds migrate. But, how much do you know about why avians partake of this annual pilgrimage. Conservationist Phillip Elden answers a few questions in the brief post below. 
Q: Why do birds migrate? 
Phillip Elden: Birds migrate for a number of reasons. Primarily, to seek food. Birds must also look for nesting locations in more temperate conditions as temperatures begin to drop in their normal habitat. It is a common misconception that birds only migrate south. Birds in the northern hemisphere sometimes move further north during the spring to enjoy a smorgasbord of seasonally-emerging insects. 
Q: What are the different types of migrating patterns? 
Phillip Elden: Birds can be separated into four categories for migration. Permanent residents are those that do not migrate. They can find food year-round. A short-distance migrator may simply move from one elevation to the next during the coldest part of the year. Medium migrators may leave their home for months at a time, but they only go a few states away. There are 350 species of long-distance migrants in the US. These flying friends go from the northern United States and Canada to South and Central America. 
Q: Why do birds migrate long distances? 
Phillip Elden: The origins of long-distance migration are not fully understood by science. What is hypothesized is that birds evolved over many generations – thousands of years – to seek longer days, shorter nights, and better food sources.  
Q: How do birds know it’s time to migrate? 
Phillip Elden: Birds, which are natural navigators, are triggered into migration by many different factors. A change in food supply, cooler temperatures, and much shorter days are likely their instinctual reasons. It is believed that it is a type of genetic muscle memory, and birds of many different species follow the same migratory patterns of their ancestors.