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
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Daffodils, cherry blossoms and tulips aren't the only things brightening up the thawing landscape now that spring is nearly here. Spring begins March 19. Right now, dozens of species of birds have left their winter homes in the south. They are embarking on their annual journey north. It is part of spring migration. In the coming weeks, even more will spread their wings. And they will follow the same route their ancestors did.
 
Spring is a particularly wonderful time for bird watching. This is according to Timothy Guida. He is a research technician at the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center. He spoke with 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. That is because 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. 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. This is according to a report published by BirdCast. It is 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 outing.
 
"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 (49)
  • galenk-smi
    3/20/2017 - 02:35 p.m.

    Birds migrate to avoid the weather,more qaulity or assortment of foods.The food is for themselves and the young they are waiting to hatch.Also because they are following the food as well.Why would birds go to Mexico and not just stay in Mexico.Because other insects or smaller animals are also migrating not just birds.They comes back because the food comes back.?

  • paigep-smi1
    3/20/2017 - 02:38 p.m.

    Most animals dont migrate but some hibernate. However, Birds do migrate, they migrate so that they can find food, shelter / nestinging area, and warmer climate. The food fish eat are fish or worms (normally) but the worms go deeper in the dround at clod temperatures same with fish. Thats why bids need that warmer area.

  • joeyv-smi
    3/20/2017 - 02:57 p.m.

    Birds migrate because their food source becomes low and it starts to get too cold for the birds. They also migrate to be in warmer weather and birds do not hibernate so they will migrate to a place with food. To sum it up, they migrate to survive the harsh winter.

  • sylviemb-buh
    3/21/2017 - 11:12 a.m.

    The birds are coming north, which means that spring is here! The birds go north for the summer, and south for the winter, so they are always in the same temperature. I am glad that the birds are finally here! I'm sick and tired of winter!

  • myram-obr
    3/21/2017 - 01:30 p.m.

    So many people ask the question, why do birds migrate? I actually have my own interpretation of why. I believe that birds migrate because their original breeding grounds are in the north. Another reason they might migrate is because of the drop in tempature and lack of food. I actually cause a manomachy with my sisters over this particular subject.

  • parkerh-obr
    3/21/2017 - 01:35 p.m.

    I think that birds migrate because it's harder for them to find food. Because mostly all they eat is small insects and small berries and during the winter all of those things are gone. It's not like other animals where they hibernate. So the birds have to go to a warmer place to get food to survive the winter and build they're nest. And then there is predators that will destroy the nest or the tree under it. In the winter some small trees will fall from snow or frost that will weaken the trees and make them snap.

  • emmahm-obr
    3/21/2017 - 01:38 p.m.

    Birds migrate because when it becomes winter in the place they are staying it is to cold for them to live. So now they go some place that is in the middle of spring or the beginning of summer. What would if they lived in the same town all the time even if it is raining,snowing, or even sunny. In the winter they will get hypothermia and die. If they move they can live and go on with there happy ways. That is the reasons birds migrate.

  • sagef-obr
    3/21/2017 - 01:40 p.m.

    I think birds migrate because they are light they only have feathers. Not fur or any other type of skin. I think they are smart because they stay where its warm and I think that's smart.

  • kadyk-obr
    3/21/2017 - 01:40 p.m.

    Most animals don't migrate. Such as bears, most insects, and many others! But, there are also a lot of species that do, including butterflies and many, many birds. Birds migrate because of their need to stay in a comfortable climate, and they also need to raise their young in the warmer seasons of the year. They go north in the Summer and Spring to stay cool, and then they migrate south in the in the colder seasons, Winter and Autumn so that they don't get too cold.

  • ethand-obr
    3/21/2017 - 01:40 p.m.

    Most animals do not migrate, but birds do migrate. Some animals do not migrate to different places because they can survive by hibernation, but birds migrate from places to find more food and to find mates. In the text it says, " They'll leave when the temperature starts to drop and there's a lack of food... The birds are anxious to reach their breeding grounds and begin mating"(part 4/5). This shows that the birds to survive the environment and to find a good place to live. This is why birds migrate from place to place during the year.

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