Migration is Mind-Blowing



This time of year, as we humans prepare to travel near and far visiting family and friends for the holidays, there is a lot of travel going on in the skies above us. Every year thousands of birds travel through Ohio on their way to more hospitable places to spend the winter months. This is no small feat for these feathered wonders, as many of them travel hundreds or even thousands of miles to reach their destinations.

The time it takes a single bird to complete its one way migration can range from a few weeks to up to four months. The time depends on the total distance, flight speed, route and stopovers. Birds migrating late in the season typically travel faster than earlier migrants of the same species. But how do they know where to go and how to get there?


Migrating birds use the stars for navigation, as well as the sun, wind patterns and landforms, to help guide them to the same locations each year. The earth’s magnetic field also plays a part in how birds migrate. Birds face many challenges on their journeys, including window collisions and city lights, which may disrupt their navigation. Other challenges include hunting, habitat loss and predators.

The best part of this intense journey is that they get to turn around and repeat this trip in the spring! So the next time you hear that noisy flock of geese flying overhead, take a moment to remember and appreciate what a hard trip they – and our other migratory species – have ahead of them.

If you are as amazed by this incredible journey as I am, be sure to join me at Miami Whitewater Forest in May to celebrate all things migratory at our International Migratory Bird Day Festival!

Heather Ficke, Naturalist, Miami Whitewater Forest