Monday, December 31, 2012

Thinking about Migration

I have emulated the fair weather birds and temporarily migrated to warmer climates – Florida!  My family has temporarily become a “snow bird” and escaped the Chicago winter in favor of the beach and the pool, if only for a week.  And it got me thinking about migration.

The energy it takes to move a body hundreds if not thousands of miles to find food and stay warm is immense.  Migratory birds have physical as well as behavioral adaptations that allow them to complete this momentous feat twice every year.  Some birds lose over 50% of their body weight burning fat to make an uninterrupted trip.  Other species fly the same route seasonally, and certain plants even time their flowering to coincide with the journeying pollinators.  Birds that migrate during the day take advantage of thermal currents over land.  Those that migrate at night avoid predators and overheating.

Human bodies have adapted to almost every climate on this planet through fat and our brain’s ability to manufacture clothing and artificial heating, but those with the means still find a way to migrate to warmer climates, if only for a short winter break.  While our bodies are fed and warmed through the long winters, it seems it heals the spirit to visit the sun.

It got me wondering - what other species in the Chicago area migrate to warmer climates in search of warmer weather and more abundant food?  While I am intrigued by migratory birds, the ones that I want to know more about are the ones that stick around!  That's for another post.  

The Dickcissel (Spiza americana) breedes in the fields of Midwestern North America, but migrate to Mexico, Central and South America in August and stay further south until June.
The Bobolink (Dolichonyx oryzivorus) also breeds in Midwestern fields and migrates to Argentina, Bolivia, and Paraguay.
The Grasshopper Sparrow (Ammodramus savannarum), also a ground nesting bird, migrates to the Southern United States, Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean.
The Wood Thrush (Hylocichla mustelina) winters in Central America and southern Mexico.
The Scarlet Tanager (Piranga olivacea) is a forest bird that favors oak forests across eastern North America.  They migrate to northwestern South America and Central America in April and again in October.  


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