Local Area Spring Migration - First Report Date Comparisons
Migration Area: The boundary on the map below indicates the area of our first local migration reports
Many people are unaware of the thousands of birds that may pass in the skies near them. Part of the reason may be that many birds travel at night. Those birds that do not fly non-stop, will usually land in the very early morning hours, find a safe place to rest and will be looking to find food during the daylight hours.
How do birds know which way to go?
How do they stay on course? Various studies have been conducted that suggest that birds use the sun or stars as guides. Birds may also use the physical characteristics of the land below, following rivers, shorelines, hills and valleys as guides. There is also the "homing" instinct that has been studied.
Birds do get lost sometimes, thrown off course by huge storms, fierce winds, or other weather conditions. Young birds, perhaps those who fledged late in the season and unable to migrate with the older birds, may become confused and stray.
There is much still to learn and know about migration. Banding of birds, observations, and radio tracking by use of small transmitters on the birds all gather information and add to the knowledge.
What can you do during migration?
Be sure to keep your feeders full for hungry and weary travelling birds. Plant bushes and trees for cover and food as well as flowers for seed to eat. With the development of land and destruction of birds' natural habitat, there are fewer and fewer places for these migratory birds on their way north and south.
breed throughout Europe as far north as Lapland and the Arctic Circle, reaching east across Asia to China. They show no preference for particular ground-level habitats but they do require insect food in the air, preferably at heights over 50 m and a suitable nest site nearby.
Swifts traditionally nested in crags , sea-cliffs, caves, hollow trees and nest holes made by other birds. These sites have largely been replaced by nesting in buildings, which has allowed the swift to colonise many new areas, including cities, throughout its world range.
More recently the application of pesticides and habitat destruction seem likely to have had adverse effects on swifts by affecting their food supply. The modernisation of many buildings has resulted in loss of nesting sites.
Swifts are migratory throughout their range. They arrive in the UK in the last week of April or early May, and stay only long enough to breed. Autumn migration begins in late July or early August. The onset of the migration is believed to be triggered by the lack of nutritious insects high in the air. Few swifts are left in September.
Our UK swifts migrate through France and Spain to spend their winter in Africa, south of the Sahara, where they follow the rains to take advantage of rapid changes in insect populations. While many immature birds return to the breeding grounds in the spring, some will remain in Africa.
The world population is estimated at around 25 million birds.
†† European swallows spend the winter in Africa south of the Sahara, in Arabia and in the Indian sub-continent.
British swallows spend their winter in South Africa: they travel through western France, across the Pyrenees, down eastern Spain into Morocco, and across the Sahara. Some birds follow the west coast of Africa avoiding the Sahara, and other European swallows travel further east and down the Nile Valley. Swallows put on little weight before migrating.
They migrate by day at low altitudes and find food on the way. Despite accumulating some fat reserves before crossing large areas such as the Sahara Desert, they are vulnerable to starvation during these crossings. Migration is a hazardous time and many birds die from starvation, exhaustion and in storms.
Migrating swallows cover 200 miles a day, mainly during daylight, at speeds of 17-22 miles per hour. The maximum flight speed is 35 mph.
In their wintering areas swallows feed in small flocks, which join together to form roosting flocks of thousands of birds. Swallows arrive in the UK in April and May, returning to their wintering grounds in September and October.