Why do birds migrate?

Migration is the seasonal movement of bird’s population from one place to another. Birds are able to detect early signs of climatic change. Human can learn from the migration of birds for better environmental planning by just observing unique species. Migration period offers the best opportunity to undertake a bird ringing exercise; you might be surprised to get a ringed bird from another continent or a country. There are regions in the world such as Arctic that support numerous birds in summer, and during this the time birds experience high productivity but in winter condition are unfavorable for birds forcing them to move to other places, or become dormant and sometimes leads to death. Below are some of the reasons why it’s important for birds to migrate annually either short or long distance migration. Birds are bio indicators and know when to migrate to south or north. The period of migration of birds depend on the type of migration, a short distances may take a few hours or days to reach their new habitat while Intra-Africa may take days or weeks while Malagasy and Palaearctic takes weeks or months to reach their destinations.
Reasons for birds migration

Bird migrates due to
1. Change in climate;
When weather changes that doesn’t suit a particular bird species, they’ll move to a suitable location, change of weather either result into destruction of habitat in one area and improvement of habitats in some areas. Unsuitable conditions includes but not limited to burning of vegetation, cutting down trees, draining available little water etc. in Kenya Lake Nakuru was a darling for the Flamingoes birds but as the water quality became unfavorable for the birds they moved on to favorable waters

2. Search for food
Birds migrate to areas with plenty of food such as insect, worms, and grains to raise their young ones. Without food many birds aren’t able to survive. Food availability changes with the weather of a particular environment and birds are able to detect the food situation in advance and move to other places to feed.

3. Search for water
Migration of birds happens due to scarcity of water, this happens mostly to water birds because it’s the only place called home to them. When fresh water Lakes changes to alkaline expect a number of fresh water birds to migrate to other lakes

4. Birds migrate to breed
During breeding season birds search for areas where young one can be raised, selecting environment with plenty of food, water and nesting habitats

5. Search for protective cover
When we have bird’s predators, the small birds being predated on will move to safe areas with adequate cover

6. Search for nesting site
Movement of birds can be observed when birds are about to construct their nests. They will consider areas with adequate food, water and protective cover

7. To raise young ones
When looking for safe places to raise their young ones, such places are free from predators, availability of food among other necessities required by the birds.

8. Human activities
Certain human activities such as wetland farming may drive for migration of birds to other friendly wetlands. Recently a section Yala Swamp was being burnt everywhere making it inhabitable for a few months for endemic species such as Papyrus Gonolek, Papyrus yellow warbler among others

Bird watching during migration period offers birders opportunity to watch as many bird species as possible within a short time. You can also check our detail guide on how to conduct a successful World Birds Migratory Day. For effective birding have the necessary equipment for bird watching including but not limited to binoculars both for kids and adults, guide books, a note book, a pen, let your visitors be dressed appropriately and if birding with small children consider carrying kids binoculars to assist them during excursion.

What dangers do birds face on their migration?

During bird’s migration, there are hurdles that some types of birds undergo resulting into either injuries or eventually death. There are numerous problems and threat during the movement across the globe. This period provide the opportune time for bird watchers and twiitcher record as many new bird species arriving from other destination into their neighborhoods. But before you finally set your birding camera on a particular bird remember that these birds undergo many challenges. Below is a list of dangers experienced by migrating birds.

1. Hostile weather condition – during movements birds are faced with extreme or strong winds. When this happens birds are forced to reduce flying speed and also makes migrants to drift from their known pathway. With adverse weather birds are forced to use extra energy. When strong storm occurs over water bodies such as seas and oceans palaearctic migrants birds are forced into water resulting into drowning. When weather is unfavorable birds takes long to reach their destination sometimes having difficulty in feed.

2. Predators – vulnerability to predators is very high and many small birds are mostly affected. Eleonera’s Falcon have field day during migration of birds when this happens many birds drift from their route due to fear or when being chased by predators. With predators very few migrating birds eventually reach their destination. Birds are predated on when feeding, on flight or when drinking water. Predators prey on the birds, the young ones and the eggs which make it very difficult for birds to care for young ones. Predators are not only birds of prey but wild animals, humans among others.

3. Collision with objects, flying birds faces numerous hurdles in busy airspaces colliding with airplanes leading to death. Tall building collisions happen where large migrant concentration is very high and this has been observed in Israel. Other obstacle to flight includes window panes, power lines, and geothermal turbines which has been a concern in Kenya to the future existence of vultures. Construction of tall buildings and structures done by the government and private sectors or business entities are the most contributors on the collision factor

4. Habitat destruction, with human activity clearing vegetation for farming and other activities causing migrant birds to find new habitats, this dislocate the birds from their known habitat. The major activities leading to loss of habitats and food includes large scale farming in wetlands forests and grasslands, desertification, deforestation among others. Climate change is a concern too many conservationists as this alter habitat situation of a particular breeding locality. Turning of grassland into farm will affect birds such as Sharp long claw that depends entirely on grass to survive. Bush fire in government forest is rising causing damages to migrant birds.

5. Human activities, migrating birds are persecuted by man. In some places birds offers delicates increasing hunting and trappings activities, large migrating water birds such as African open-billed stork is hunted and sold in the markets. The most affected region is the Busia grassland in Kenya known to host the open-billed stork during the rainy seasons in the month of April. Here locals use various chemicals to poison the birds in the Bunyala rice irrigation scheme. Waders are persecuted in Egypt, while Honey Buzzard faces the same fate in Liberia.

6. Water pollution is one of the challenges forcing birds to change their destination to other unknown areas. In Kenya Lake Nakuru known to host Flamingoes were greatly affected causing flamingoes to move to safe water bodies. The number one contributors to water pollution are the industrial companies discharging waste products into the Lake or water bodies. These not only affect birds but human contract water borne disease resulting to death

The above mentioned causes are a few, to help protect the migrating birds you can take part in bird watching and conservation in your area. Be part of the bird ringing team to known new arrival in the locality and help conserve their habitats. Check also our article on why birds migrate? And a list of birds that migrates, also check on how to conduct a success World bird migratory day to create awareness of moving birds around you. By holding this event your are helping the community understand the importance of birds conservation