Bird Migration & Navigation

Bird Migration & Navigation

BY : Rhiannon Nevinczenko

As seasons change, different species are observable in different areas. For example, you may be seeing birds you've not seen since last summer. Not all bird species migrate, and some only undergo short or medium distance migrations. Even one species might not always behave the same way - for instance, some Canada goose populations are residents that do not migrate, while others may migrate long distances in search of non-frozen water. They are famous for the V-shaped formation they take while migrating, which may help reduce drag and conserve energy. Birds might migrate for different reasons, such as food availability or breeding purposes. We are still learning about how migratory species navigate so effectively. Though we have not completely solved the puzzle, evidence suggests their sense of direction relies on several senses, not all of which we share with them. For instance, birds can sense the Earth's magnetic field, providing an internal biological compass to direct them. They may also take directional cues from the Sun (e.g., its position while setting), stars, and landmarks. In the case of homing pigeons, even the sense of smell can be used for navigation.
Photo credit: Frank Cone via Pexels.

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