Spotting those birds that pay us a flying visit
AT this time of year, I’m always looking to tick off the returning migrant birds, and a few readers have already asked, for example: ‘Are the curlews back yet?’ and ‘When can I expect to see swallows?’
So, thanks to the RSPB, here’s some migrating facts and figures.
Not all birds migrate. A few, such as partridges, never move more than a kilometre or so from where they hatch. These are called sedentary birds. But they are in the minority. Most birds will migrate. The most famous are long-distance migrants, such as swallows, which breed in Europe and spend the winter in Africa.
But you might be surprised to learn how many others are at it too. Even the blackbirds in your garden in January could well be winter visitors from Eastern Europe.
At least 4,000 species of bird are regular migrants. That’s about 40 per cent of the world’s total. But some parts of the world have a higher proportion of migrants than others.
In far northern regions, such as Canada or Scandinavia, most species migrate south to escape winter. In temperate regions, such as the UK, about half the species migrate – especially insect-eaters that can’t find enough food during winter. In tropical regions, such as the Amazon rainforest, fewer species migrate, since the weather and food supply there are more reliable all year round.
migrate in different ways.
Irruption is a mass arrival of birds that do not usually visit the UK in large numbers. This happens with some northern species, such as waxwings, when their population grows too large for the food supply.
For example, once some waxwings have eaten all the berries in their usual Scandinavian winter quarters, they have to cross the sea to the UK to find more. Irruptions only happen every 10 years or so; we can’t expect to see waxwings every winter.
The Laughing Badger Gallery, 99 Platt Street, Padfield, Glossop
●» Tommy Hyndman gets close to some waxwings