Tuesday, October 03, 2006

The survivalists

The season of migration is well underway as millions of birds flee the coming cold.

Their journeys often amaze us with their length and navigational expertise. The Arctic Tern flies 11,000 miles from northern Canada to Antarctica each fall. The hummingbird, weighing but a fraction of an ounce, may traverse a thousand miles of the Gulf of Mexico to reach winter grounds. Many songbirds fly hundreds of miles each night, guided only by stars or some invisible magnetic field.

Amazing all. But what of the birds that choose to stay? Are they just lazy? Hardly.

While their migrating brethren are enjoying temperate shores and tropical forests, our year-round birds face cold and snow. They must survive winter’s winds and frigid temperatures. They must find sustenance when a foot or more of snow covers the ground. Many must spend months in preparation, storing food for winter use – and later remembering the hundreds of caches they made.

Whether they are winging their way to warmth, or just crouching against the cold, birds are astounding survivalists.

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