Endangered whooping cranes flew 2,500 miles (4,023 kilometers) from Canada to Texas, where they usually spend the whole winter. Instead, they pecked around for a short time and flew back. Some ducks just kept flying south — all the way to Belize in Central America.
Throughout the winter, scientists have noticed bizarre bird migrations — a result, they believe, of flocks becoming desperate for food and habitat becoming scarce because of the worst one-year dry spell in Texas history. The unusually mild winter in the Northeast and Midwest has even persuaded some birds they could stay put, fly shorter distances or turn back north earlier than normal.
“We have birds scattered all over the place looking for habitat right now,” said Richard Kostecke, a bird expert and associate director of conservation, research and planning at the Nature Conservancy in Texas…
(Nov. 2010) - Animal migration is a phenomenon far grander and more patterned than animal movement. It represents collective travel with long-deferred rewards. It suggests premeditation and epic willfulness, codified as inherited instinct. A biologist named Hugh Dingle, striving to understand the essence, has identified five characteristics that apply, in varying degrees and combinations, to all migrations.
They are prolonged movements that carry animals outside familiar habitats; they tend to be linear, not zigzaggy; they involve special behaviors of preparation (such as overfeeding) and arrival; they demand special allocations of energy. And one more: Migrating animals maintain a fervid attentiveness to the greater mission, which keeps them undistracted by temptations and undeterred by challenges that would turn other animals aside…
Tiny Songbird, Northern Wheatear, Traverses the World
by Victoria Gill
Miniature tracking devices have revealed the epic 30,000km (18,640 miles) migration of the diminutive Northern Wheatear.
The birds, which weigh just 25g (0.8oz), travel from sub-Saharan Africa to their Arctic breeding grounds. “Scaled for body size,” the scientists report, “this is the one of the longest round-trip migratory journeys of any bird in the world. The team reports its findings in the Royal Society journal Biology Letters.
“Think of something smaller than an [American] robin, but a little larger than a finch raising young in the Arctic tundra and then a few months later foraging for food in Africa for the winter,” said one of the lead researchers, Prof Ryan Norris from the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada.
The species is of particular interest to scientists, because it has one of the largest ranges of any songbird in the world; with breeding grounds in the eastern Canadian Arctic, across Greenland, Eurasia and into Alaska…
(read more: BBC) (photo: Institute of Avian Research)
Fotos from National Audubon: Baltimore Oriole (Icterus galbula)
Some Baltimores travel from as far away as Colombia and Venezuela in spring migration to nest in Canada and the U.S., and they’ll travel up the Central, Mississippi, and Atlantic Migratory Flyways. (Photo: Bill Stripling)
The world’s highest flying bird is an Asian goose that can fly up and over the Himalaya in only about eight hours, a new study finds. The Bar-headed Goose (Anser indicus) is “very pretty, but I guess it doesn’t look like a superathlete,” said study co-author Lucy Hawkes, a biologist at Bangor University in the United Kingdom.
In 2009, Hawkes and an international team of researchers tagged 25 bar-headed geese in India with GPS transmitters. Shortly thereafter, the birds left on their annual spring migration to Mongolia and surrounding areas to breed. To get there, the geese have to fly over the Himalaya—the world’s tallest mountain range and home to the tallest mountain on Earth, Mount Everest, which rises to 29,035 feet (8,850 meters)…