Get out your binoculars—birds are making their annual trek north Point Reyes National Seashore is one of the best birding spots in the country, boasting nearly 500 species. (Macduff Everton/Corbis/Fred Bavendam/Minden Pictures/Corbis)
Get out your binoculars—birds are making their annual trek north
Lexile

Daffodils, cherry blossoms and tulips aren't the only things brightening up the thawing landscape now that spring is nearly here. Spring begins March 20. Right now, dozens of species of birds have left their winter homes in the south and are embarking on their annual journey north as part of spring migration. In the coming weeks, even more will spread their wings and follow the same route their ancestors once did.
 
Spring is a particularly wonderful time for bird watching, Timothy Guida, a research technician at the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center, told Smithsonian.com.
 
"During the spring, the males have on their beautiful plumage to attract mates," he says. "So you'll see birds at their most vibrant."
 
Another bonus to spring migration is that it occurs as a mass movement. It takes place over a shorter timeframe than its fall counterpart, since birds are anxious to reach their breeding grounds and begin mating.
 
"During the fall, the timespan for migration is much broader, since birds typically start leaving once the temperature drops and there's a lack of food," says Guida. "But in the spring, you'll see more of a blitz over the span of several weeks, since timing is more imperative for birds to begin reproducing and raising young."
 
Birds already on their epic odyssey include pectoral sandpipers, great egrets, ospreys, western kingbirds, scissor-tailed flycatchers and brown thrashers, according to a report published by BirdCast, a subsection of The Cornell Lab of Ornithology. And birds aren't the only species in migration mode. Monarch butterflies are also leaving their winter homes for the north. 
 
With all the diversity to be seen among spring migrators, you might worry about how to make the most of your bird watching excursion. "My advice is to not stress out by trying to see everything at once, but instead focus on one or two species and see if you can identify them," Guida says. "I think people know more about birds than they realize. By comparing the birds you're seeing to the ones you already know, you can start piecing everything together by color or size and develop birding skills that way."

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CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
Most animals do not migrate. Why do birds migrate?
Write your answers in the comments section below


COMMENTS (6)
  • abbyj-obr
    3/21/2017 - 01:33 p.m.

    Why do birds migrate? Can't the birds gust get a bunch of food and hibernate? Why can't the birds go south, why do they have to go north? Some birds are colerful or not colerful some are rare some are not. Some birds do have to migrate because they are fragile.

  • isabellet-obr
    3/21/2017 - 01:45 p.m.

    When the birds find out winter is here they leave to their winter homes for awhile and wait for spring so they can get food and a mate for the next generation of birds to come. When spring is here on the 20ith of March, birds start to fly back to spring homes and stay until winter. The birds that go to migrate are the ones that have to get food and warmth, the ones that don't migrate stay at the place.

  • peytonw-cel
    3/27/2017 - 10:51 a.m.

    Birds that nest in the Northern Hemisphere tend to migrate northward in the spring to take advantage of insect population. As winter approaches and the availability of insects and other food drops, the birds move south again. Birds move to where they will get the most food. Another reason they move is for mating.

  • noahr-ste
    3/28/2017 - 12:40 p.m.

    Birds fly south during the winter for many reasons. One main reason is there is a food shortage in the winter for birds unless they go south. Also down south is a good mating area for birds to create future generations of birds.

  • kaileew-ste
    3/31/2017 - 01:02 p.m.

    By the first day of Spring, millions of birds have began to migrate. During this time, many birdwatchers are standing by prepared. I think bird watching would be fun to try sometime.

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