Typically spring migration occurs as a mass movement and takes place over a shorter time period than fall migration. Birds are anxious to get back to their summer nesting grounds and get the breeding/nesting process underway.
This is the time of year when bird’s feathers are most vibrant in order to attract a mate.
Migration comes from the Latin word migratus meaning “to change” referring to how birds change geographical locations twice a year.
We traditionally think of migration occurring in the spring and fall and while a vast majority of birds do migrate during this time period, birds around the world are actually migrating 365 days a year.
A one way migration can be as short as a few days to a few weeks or even up to 4 months depending in the species and distance travelled, but birds who get a late start travel faster than those who started earlier.
Songbirds typically travel at night so as to avoid predators during the day. Plus cooler, calmer air makes their journey more comfortable. They use stars to navigate.
Whooping cranes like to soar during the day travelling on solar-heated thermals.
Birds, who migrate across oceans, can travel for more than 100 hours at a time. Some have even been known to take respite on ships at sea. When they reach land a phenomenon, known as fallout, happens. Exhausted from their long journey mass numbers will congregate as soon as they reach the closest land source. The Texas Gulf Coast is a great place to witness this; viewing the birds who have traveled from Latin America and the Caribbean.
Migrating birds can travel from 15 to 50 miles per hour. Most birds fly less than 2,000 feet but the bar-headed goose holds the record for the highest migration at 30,000 feet. That’s getting close to where airplanes fly!
The Arctic tern has earned the record for longest migration of any bird with a round trip of 22,000 miles!