October 13 is World Migratory Bird Day (WMBD).
Today was very special day for me. I had a chance to celebrate WMBD by presenting my first birding program at Rancocas Nature Center called “The Miracle of Avian Migration“. I had a wonderful audience and we had a nice hike after the presentation. While walking through the meadow we observed Eastern Phoebes, Red-bellied Woodpeckers, Downy Woodpeckers, Turkey Vultures, a Red-tailed Hawk, Red-winged Blackbirds, House Finches, and American Robins. Other creatures included a raccoon, an Eastern Cottontail Rabbit, a Wolf Spider with an eggs sac, and a woolly bear caterpillar (Isabella Tiger Moth). Thank you to everybody who came out to the program!
In honor of World Migratory Bird Day here are some fun facts about bird migration:
- 4,000 species (40%) of the world’s almost 10,000 bird species are migratory.
- Shorebirds are some of the most fascinating migrants. Bar-tailed Godwits from Alaska will migrate nonstop to New Zealand, a trip that is over 7,000 miles and takes about 9 days. In order to migrate such a far distance, these bird increase the size of their pectoral muscles, heart, and lungs and decrease the size of their stomach and gizzards.
- Migratory birds can sense the Earth’s magnetic field, as well as use the Sun and starts to orient them in the correct direction. A study done on captive-raised Indigo Buntings who were exposed to natural and artificial star patterns at a planetarium found that birds don’t memorize the position of the stars, but observe the rotation of the star patterns to orient their direction.
- Birds will engage in anxious behavior before they migrate, referred to as Zugunruhe, or migratory restlessness.
- There are 350 species of long-distance migrants in North America.
What migrants have you been seeing in your area? Tell us in the comments!