What is Migration?
The word migration comes from the Latin word, migratus which means "to change." The word has special meaning when it refers to animals. Migration is the movement of an animal from one region, or habitat, to another. This happens at regular periods of time, and during a particular season. Birds migrate twice a year, once in spring and again in fall.
Animals migrate in order to breed, grow, find food or avoid cold weather.
Where do birds go?
Many species migrate very long distances. It is very common that birds will migrate to the northern hemisphere in the summer where they can breed in a cooler climate. In the winter they will head to the southern hemisphere where the climate is more temperate. This pattern is known as a flyway. It is sort of a highway that birds fly.
When do birds migrate?
Each species migrates at a certain time of year and time of day. Some are very irregular in their migration patterns.
Some species start their migration south in early July and some don't migrate until the weather gets too harsh or the food becomes unavailable later in the fall.
Experiments show that day length stimulates migration. In the Spring, you might see migrating birds as early as January in Florida!
Most birds fly by night in small flocks. This allows them to eat during the day, and avoid some predators.
What are the dangers of migration?
Sometimes birds must fly across harsh habitats such as deserts, where there is little water, or oceans, where there is no place to land and little food to eat. Sometimes stormy weather may make the trip difficult. There can be many predators along the migration route.