Florida migration not just a bird’s tale


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Purple martins migrate to and from South America.

Photo By Charlie Corbeil Collection

Spinning tales about birds, who are among are the most resilient and vital creatures.

Birds are survivors. Behaviors and adaptations enable them to encounter cold climates and find nourishment. Of course, mature birds are fitter.

How do birds tolerate winter venues? Some remain in breeding grounds. They forage in tree bark for seeds and insects instead of on the frozen ground. Feeders and birdhouses for roosting are advantageous. Actually, 13 male bluebirds were witnessed nestled in a single birdhouse.

For some species, migration occurs. Around 1,800 of the 10,000 bird species are long-distance travelers seeking their dietary needs. Most migrating timing and control is processed at birth; environmental cues, mental maps and landmarks also provide guidance.

Currently of concern are progressively shorter winters. The warmer, early springs (false springs) bring earlier arrivals; consequently, connections are disrupted for peak breeding and peak insect availability. A serious causal effect is reproductive failure.

In Florida, wintering birds savor the climate.  Most of the northern birds reach their destinations by early December. Several wintering locations endure: waterfowl at St. Marks in the Panhandle and at Merritt Island; warblers in the Keys; American bitterns in the sawgrass marshes of the Everglades; and red-breasted mergansers along the coastline. Certainly, the availability of food is accommodating.

Undeniably, these creatures are essential to the planet. They pollinate, disperse seeds, control pests and parasites, recycle nutrients and they might signal a threatened ecosystem (as the canary in the coal mine).

Moreover, birds have inspired man to fly. Enthusiasts such as Da Vinci and the Wright brothers were avid observers of these creatures. Obviously, airplane wings are designed similar to birds. For thrust to create lift, birds flap their wings and airplanes use engines. Therefore, NASA and Boeing are studying the efficient V-shaped formation of Canada geese during migration. In the future, aligned jetliners could fly in formation like birds, saving energy by reducing drag.

Likewise beneficial is the joy birds generate. It is captivating to perceive flocks of purple martins gracing the skies while migrating to and from South America. And always soothing is the brilliant blue of the indigo bunting or the iridescence of the hummingbird. VV