Fly Me to the Moon

Time to migrate. Actually, birds, mammals, insects, reptiles, and fish migrate at various times throughout the year. For us northerners though, now seems the best time to migrate and birds are the most visible travelers.

Birds: waterfowl and song birds migrate to areas with more abundant resources. As most Michigan lakes are frozen in the winter, they provide zero food for waterfowl that enjoy eating those little insects or plants living in the water. The distance of migration varies with different species, and some birds stay all year round (my favorite is the bright, red cardinal).

 The Arctic tern has the longest migration of any bird in the world. These black-capped, red-billed birds can fly more than 49,700 miles in a year, making a round trip between their breeding grounds in the Arctic and the Antarctic, where they spend their winters. The lucky bird gets to see two summers a year! And over its lifespan of more than 30 years, the flights can add up to the equivalent of three trips to the moon and back.

Monarch Butterflies overwinter in fir tree forests of Mexico–they are believed to be souls of loved ones lost, returning. Their arrival happens around Dia de los Muertos.

Insects: there are actually hundreds of species of insects that migrate for different reasons. From beetle to locusts to the one we’ve talked about most this year–the Monarch Butterfly, insects migrate a.) to breed (which ends up being a one-way journey), b.) from a breeding area to a feeding area and c.) from a breeding area to a hibernation place (again, Michigan is literally freezing in the winter months). Other insects count on the eggs they lay in the fall to survive the winter and produce a new generation the following spring.

Snow Birds: also known as grandparents or senior citizens. These creatures migrate south for the winter much like the waterfowl and song birds. This phenomenon is less studied than other mammal migrations. So many questions have yet to be answered–what drives this generation to congregate in three common regions, what accounts for the other members of the generation not migrating…such a mystery!

As you are out this fall observing the bird migrations (possibly in a duck hunting boat), or around the country enjoying mammal or insect migrations, consider your own migratory patterns and fall/winter rituals–what do they say about you, your generation, and will future generations study them to unravel hidden mysteries?

Leave a Reply