Spot­ting those birds that pay us a fly­ing visit

Macclesfield Express - - THE LAUGHING BADGER - SEAN WOOD

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.

Dif­fer­ent species

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

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