I find migration to be one of the most exciting and inspiring phenomena in the avian world. Many birds visit more places over the course of one year's migration than I might go to in my lifetime! Take the Grey-cheeked Thrush for example: they nest in Alaska and northern Canada, fly across the eastern U.S., then winter in northern South America. So, they are flying from taiga near the arctic circle to tropical forest each year! Not only that, but they stop over in the largest of cities, like New York, Philly, and Baltimore, so they also experience both the most rugged landscapes and urban skyscrapers.
The Gray Catbirds that hop around - or maybe even breed - in your bushes in the summer likely make it to southern Mexico, Belize, or Guatemala to spend the winter, though some only go down to Florida. Ruby-throated Hummingbirds also winter in Central America, and they usually fly hundreds of miles across the Gulf of Mexico to get there!
Speaking of flying south, Chimney Swifts will soon be gone from this area. They're one of my favorites, and I always miss them when they leave. Swifts are still here for now, though, and there have been a ton of them at The Woodlands recently! They usually come around in the afternoon; to pick out swifts, think thin - thin, tube-like body, with long, thin wings. I hope you get a chance to see these agile birds before they leave!
Migration, unfortunately, is laden with dangers for the tiny travelers, many of them human-caused, as recent articles have made all too clear. Foremost among these threats is collision with glass. When birds that breed in rural places pass through populated areas on migration, they experience glass for the first time. Sadly, they have no way of understanding that it is a physical barrier, or that they cannot reach the habitat reflected in it, and they collide and almost always die. And it's not only skyscrapers that kill birds, but also individual homes. Simply put, if there is a window, it is dangerous for birds.
However, there are things that can be done to help prevent birds from flying into windows. Many products are available that make glass more perceivable for birds. My personal favorite is hanging paracord 2 inches apart just outside the window. I recommend visiting this American Birding Association website for more simple solutions (scroll down to 'Homeowner Products').
Also, many of our favorite summer birds such as orioles, thrushes, and warblers are neotropical migrants (Birds that migrate each year between the American tropics and higher latitudes, especially in North America) that need forested areas for habitat. However, coffee plants grow well in the same places that birds use, and countless acres of forest have been cleared for sun coffee plantations that provide few resources for birds. Thankfully, you can purchase bird-friendly shade-grown coffee, which is grown, as the name implies, under the shade of trees that provide a home for birds and other animals. Many people say that shade-grown coffee actually tastes better, and the adults in my family can vouch for that! So, click on this link to purchase coffee that will let you enjoy a delicious beverage and save birds, all at once!
Written by: Toribird
P.S. Learn more about birding at The Woodlands with me at Halloween Family Fun Day on Sunday, October 20th! I’ll have a table set up and will be leading a bird walk at 2:00PM. See you there!