More than 300 bird species found in North America during the summer will make their way to Latin America or the Caribbean for our winter months, some covering distances of nearly 7,000 miles. Parks, backyards, and nature refuges across the country will host these winged visitors for the next few weeks as the birds make their way to their fall and winter destinations.Migration is a fascinating feature of bird behavior. Besides the amount of daylight, it appears that age, sex, weather conditions, and the availability of food, water, and shelter are the major factors that influence migratory behavior.While migration is still not completely understood, it appears that some birds orient themselves by the stars on clear nights while others seem to have a built-in magnetic compass. Some birds travel over large bodies of water, and in doing so lose one-fourth to one-half of their body weight. In order to survive this grueling trip, birds accumulate fat prior to migration. This physiological change helps the birds maintain their energy reserves.Not only can we enjoy these migrating birds as they pass through our area, we can play a role in their survival by providing food, water, habitat, and/or shelter to help them conserve and replenish their energy supply during their journey. Foods that are high in fat, such as suet, suet blends, and a seed blend with lots of sunflower seeds, help birds refuel their energy supplies.Not only can we help migrating birds with food supplies, migration is a great time to maybe see bird species that are not common to our area.
Most hummingbirds will remain in this area until the end of September to the middle of October. Some, however, have been reported to have stayed much later. The rule of thumb is to leave your hummingbird feeders up until you think you have seen the last hummingbird come to it, then leave them up for another two to three weeks in case there are some stragglers coming through that need nourishment. Hummingbirds are naturally migratory, so leaving your hummingbird feeder out will not deter them from migrating. When they decide it is time to go, they will go.Local bird expert Larry Collins owns Wild Birds Unlimited, 2454 Hwy. 6&50, which caters to folks who want the best backyard birdfeeding experience possible. Email your birdfeeding and birding questions to firstname.lastname@example.org and he'll answer them in his bi-weekly Q&A column in the Free Press.