“I never dreamed about success. I worked for it.”
~Estee Lauder (1908-2004) American businesswoman and recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom
(Quote via Goodreads.com)
The Northern Shrike summers in the northern reaches of Canada and Alaska. It only appears in Minnesota when it returns to the lower 48 during winter. The size of a medium songbird, this carnivorous creature feeds on rodents, small birds, and large insects. (Source: allaboutbirds.org)
“My point is, life is about balance. The good and the bad. The highs and the lows. The pina and the colada.”
~Ellen DeGeneres, Seriously…I’m Kidding
Female Mallard duck balancing while she “rests.” Amazing! Animals model balance for us on a regular basis. The struggle to survive certainly sets priorities for them.
“Now more than ever do I realize that I will never be content with a sedentary life, that I will always be haunted by thoughts of a sun-drenched elsewhere.”
~ Isabelle Eberhardt, The Nomad: The Diaries of Isabelle Eberhardt
(Canada Goose in a spring wetland.)
One of the first birds to return to Minnesota in the spring is the Canada Goose. This common bird is one of the best known birds in North America. It is found in every contiguous U.S. state and Canadian province at one time of the year or another!
When Canada (not Canadian) geese migrate, they form impressive and aerodynamic “V-formations.” They can fly 1,500 miles in just 24 hours with a favorable wind, but generally travel at a more leisurely pace. For me, a Canada Goose in the spring is similar to sighting the first American Robin.
“Learning is not compulsory…neither is survival.”
~Dr. W. Edwards Deming (1900-1993) American scholar, statistician, and teacher
(Pictured above are ducks migrating through my area: a male Ring-necked duck and four Hooded Mergansers.)
What is it about some birds that compel them to migrate? Once they begin their journey, how do they know when it is time to stop? How do they know when it is time to return? Scientists continue to study and learn about this phenomenon!
Here are a few facts that I found interesting about bird migration:
- At least 4,000 species of bird are regular migrants, which is about 40 percent of the total number of birds in the world. (Although this number will likely increase as we learn more about the habits of birds in tropical regions.)–Audubon.org.
- The Bar-tailed Godwit can fly for nearly 7,000 miles without stopping, making it the bird with the longest recorded non-stop flight. During the eight-day journey, the bird doesn’t stop for food or rest–Audubon.org.
- Hawks, swifts, swallows and waterfowl migrate primarily during the day, while many songbirds migrate at night, in part to avoid the attention of migrating predators such as raptors. The cooler, calmer air at night also makes migration more efficient for many species, while those that migrate during the day most often take advantage of solar-heated thermal currents for easy soaring–birding.about.com.
- The ruby-throated hummingbird migrates from the Yucatan peninsula of Mexico to the southeastern United States every spring, a journey of 500-600 miles over the Caribbean Sea that takes 24 hours without a break–birding.about.com.
- Migrating birds face many threats along their journeys, including window collisions, confusing lights that disrupt navigation, hunting, habitat loss and predation. Juvenile birds are at greater risk because of their inexperience with migration – yet somehow, birds successfully migrate every year–birding.about.com.
So, consider putting out and keeping full a bird feeder and/or bird bath in the spring and the fall. There are some tired and hungry birds traveling at these times of year!
“To move, to breathe, to fly, to float,
To gain all while you give,
To roam the roads of lands remote,
To travel is to live.”
~Hans Christian Andersen, The Fairy Tale of My Life: An Autobiography
We are in the midst of the bird migration season here in Minnesota. Simply put, birds migrate to move from areas of low or decreasing resources to areas of high or increasing resources. The two primary resources being sought are food and nesting locations. It can be an exciting time for birders and photographers alike as all hope to spot something new and/or different as the birds visit our area.
This is a shot of geese high above a birding “hotspot” near the Cannon River in southeastern Minnesota. (To learn more about birding hotspots, please visit: http://ebird.org/content/ebird/news/hotspot-explorer/ )