(Dr. Girish Chandra)
The primary aim of migration is to take advantage of the longer days of the northern summer for breeding and to feed their young and to avoid harsh winters. The extended daylight hours allow diurnal birds to produce larger clutches of eggs than those of non-migratory species that remain in the tropics all the year round. As the days shorten in autumn, the birds return to warmer regions where the available food supply is more. During northern winters there is little food and cold temperatures, whereas in south, there is more food and less cold.
Between 1500 and 4000 species of birds are known to migrate. In India and South Asia, out of over 2000 species and sub-species, about 350 are migrants. It is estimated that over 100 species of migratory birds fly into India, either in search of food or to escape severe winter of their native habitat. In the Indian subcontinent the majority of migratory birds are winter migrants.
The first naturalist to write about migration was Aristotle, who studied pelicans, turtle doves, swallows, quail, swans and geese as migrants and observed that all migrating birds fatten themselves up before migrating. Every year, during autumn and early winter, birds travel from there breeding grounds in the northern regions of Asia, Europe and America to the southern lands of Asia, Africa and South America. They make the return journey again during spring and early summer.
Birds of prey, Swallows and Crows migrate in daytime, whereas thrushes, warblers, cuckoos, woodpeckers and most songbirds migrate by night. Large birds fly faster than small birds. Ducks and geese maintain an average speed of 64-80 km/h, while hawks and ravens fly at 35-45 km/h. Most birds migrate at an altitude of 3,000 feet or less but cranes and geese migrate at altitudes of 15,000-21,000 feet.
Before migration birds eat more food and store it as fat for their long journey. Some migrants almost double their body weights by storing fat before migration. The ruby-throated hummingbird weighs only 4.8 grams and can use stored fat to fuel a non-stop, 24-hour flight across a 600 mile stretch of open sea from the U.S. Gulf coast to the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico.
The Arctic Tern (Sterna paradisaea) is a sea bird that breeds in Arctic and sub-Arctic regions of Europe, Asia, and North America in marshes, tundra lakes and shorelines. The species is strongly migratory, seeing two summers each year as it migrates from its northern breeding grounds to the oceans around Antarctica and back, covering a distance of about 38,000 km each year that take 90 days each side. This is the longest regular migration by any known animal. The arctic tern flies as well as glides through the air, performing almost all of its tasks in the air. Arctic Terns are mainly grey, with red beak and feet, white forehead, a black-nape and crown and white cheeks. It is one of the most aggressive birds that fiercely defend its nests and young. Arctic terns leave the Arctic Circle and head eastwards across the Atlantic Ocean, flying down the west coasts of Europe and Africa. In spring they fly north back to the Arctic, following the east coasts of South and North America. Considering an Arctic tern lives up to 30 years, a single bird may travel more than 650,000 miles in its lifetime. The young stay in the southern hemisphere until they are about two years old and will then migrate back to their birthplace. One Arctic Tern, ringed as a chick on the Farne Islands off the British east coast, reached Melbourne, Australia in just three months from fledging, a sea journey of over 22,000 km. The arctic tern may hold the record for longest migration distance since it flies about 35,000 km each year travelling between its arctic breeding ground and non-breeding area in the Antarctic.
Pied Crested Cuckoo (Clamator jacobinus) migrates to large areas in northern India in monsoon and has often been called the harbinger of monsoon or "rain visitor" from Africa. They move across the Arabian Sea and Indian Ocean to reach India in May or June. Some believe that the bird uses monsoon winds to assist its flight during this migration. It breeds during June-August and leaves the subcontinent in September/October for Africa.
The Common Cuckoo (Cuculus canorus) is a widespread summer migrant to Europe and Asia, and winters in Africa. It is a brood parasite, which lays its eggs in the nests of other bird species, such as meadow pipits and reed warblers.
The American Golden-Plover (Pluvialis dominica) breeds in Arctic Tundra and has a long, circular migration route. In the fall it flies offshore from the East Coast of North America non-stop to South America. It leaves the breeding grounds in early summer, but juveniles usually linger until late summer or fall. Some adults arrive on the wintering grounds in southern South America before the last juveniles have left the Arctic. On the return journey in the spring it passes primarily through the middle of North America to reach its arctic breeding grounds. The bird has one of the longest known migratory routes of over 25,000 miles, of which 2,400 miles is over ocean where it cannot stop to feed or drink.
Manx shearwater (Puffinus puffinus) nests in a small number of island colonies from the Western Islands, Iceland, in the Faroes, in northern and western Britain and Ireland, Brittany, to the Azores, Madeira and the Canaries. They nest in burrows, laying one white egg which is only visited at night to avoid predation by large gulls. They form life-long monogamous pair-bonds. Young Manx Shearwaters go to sea at night, without their parents, and immediately head for the winter quarters off the coast of southern Brazil and Argentina. Ringing studies in Stockholm show that some of the young make this 6000–7000 mile journey in less than a fortnight.
Manx Shearwaters migrate over 11,000 km to South America in winter, using waters off southern Brazil and Argentina, so this bird has covered a minimum of 1,000,000 km on migration alone in its lifetime. Another bird ringed in 1957 and breeding on Bardsey Island off Wales was calculated by ornithologist Chris Mead to have flown over 8 million km during its life.
Penguins. After breeding most penguin species moult, relying on fat reserves to sustain them for a period of 2-5 weeks without food. After moulting, penguins can enter water to find food and migrate. All penguins, except six species that are adapted to inshore life, migrate over long distances and return to land only for the breeding season. Satellite telemetry of Adelie penguin migration shows that these birds travel a path along the coastline of the Antarctic continent to a winter feeding ground in an area north-west of the Balleny Islands, off the Ross Ice Shelf, a distance of 5,500 km. Tracking of Humboldt penguins revealed that most stayed within a 90 km radius of the island on which they breed. Migration is also the time when penguins are most vulnerable, with annual survival estimates ranging from 75% for the Little Penguin to 95% for the Emperor penguin.
Bar-tailed Godwit (Limosa lapponica) is a large wader in the family Scolopacidae, which breeds on Arctic coasts and tundra mainly in the Old World, and winters on coasts in temperate and tropical regions of the Old World. It makes the longest known non-stop flight of any bird and also the longest journey without pausing to feed, 11,680 kilometres along a route from Alaska to New Zealand. It was shown in 2007 to undertake the longest non-stop flight by any bird. Birds in New Zealand were tagged and tracked by satellite to the Yellow Sea in China. According to Dr. Clive Minton, the distance between these two locations is 9,575 kilometres but the actual track flown by the bird was 11,026 kilometres. This is the longest known non-stop flight of any bird. The flight took approximately 9 days. At least three other Bar-tailed Godwits also appear to have reached the Yellow Sea after non-stop flights from New Zealand.
Albatrosses. Albatrosses are roaming seabirds that live up to 60 years, spending many continuous years at sea before returning to land to breed. Young birds leave New Zealand waters and fly circumpolar through the Pacific, Indian and Atlantic Oceans before returning to New Zealand waters to breed as adults when 6-10 years old. Satellite transmitters have been put on wandering albatross and have shown that birds can travel an incredible 700 kilometres a day. Unfortunately, they also reveal huge losses to long line fishing. The Wandering Albatross, Snowy Albatross, or White-winged Albatross, Diomedea exulans, is a large seabird, which has a circumpolar range in the Southern Ocean. Based on tracking the precise movements of 22 birds, reveals that males are most likely to circumnavigate the world, with the fastest managing a distance of 14,000 miles in 46 days – the equivalent of a steady 13mph. More than half then made amazing round-the-world journeys – the fastest in just 46 days. As the loggers only provide two positions per day, an accurate estimate of the distance is impossible but it is likely to have been at least 14,000 miles. Using satellite telemetry scientists have learned that some parent birds fly as much as 1000 kilometres per day, covering anywhere from 2900 kilometres to an astonishing 15,000 kilometres in a single foraging flight.
Siberian Crane (Grus leucogeranus). The Siberian Cranes nest in Yakutia and western Siberia of Russia and migrate to India. The migration route stretches for 4000 miles. Their resting place at the time of migration is the Lake Ab-i-Estada in Afghanistan. The Kaladeo Ghana National Park or the Bharatpur National Park has been declared a world heritage site because the Siberian Crane traverses nearly half of the globe to reach it. The eastern population winters on the Yangtze River and Lake Poyang in China, the central population at Keoladeo National Park, India (the last Siberian Crane in this population was observed in 2002), and the western population in Fereydoon Kenar in Iran. It breeds and winters in wetlands, where it feeds on the shoots, roots and tubers of aquatic plants.
Ducks, shovellers, teals and geese. Some duck species, mainly those breeding in the temperate and Arctic Northern Hemisphere, are migratory; those in the tropics, however, are generally not. Some ducks, particularly in Australia where rainfall is patchy and erratic, are nomadic, seeking out the temporary lakes and pools that form after localised heavy rain.
Black-headed bunting (Emberiza melanocephala). The males are quite gorgeous with their black heads, brilliant yellow underparts and rich reddish-brown upperparts. The females are much duller although they often show at least a hint of yellow, especially on the undertail coverts and the head is usually distinctly darker than the throat, creating a hooded effect which mimics the pattern of the male. Migratory, wintering in western and central India. Arrives in the breeding areas in late April or May and departs in July or early August.
Black poll warbler (Dendroica striata) is a New World warbler. These birds breed in northern North America, from Alaska, Canada, and up to New England and winter in north-western South America. Part of their fall migratory route is over the Atlantic Ocean from the north-eastern United States to Puerto Rico, the Lesser Antilles, or northern South America. This route averages 1,864 miles over water, requiring a potentially non-stop flight of up to 88 hours. To accomplish this flight, they nearly double their body mass and take advantage of a shift in prevailing wind direction.
Humming birds. Most hummingbirds of the U.S. and Canada migrate south in fall to spend the winter in northern Mexico or Central America. Ruby-throated hummingbird flies 600 miles across the Gulf of Mexico in 25 hours non-stop. A few southern South American species also move to the tropics in the southern winter. A few species are year-round residents in the warmer coastal and interior desert regions.
Migratory Birds Coming to India in Winter Season
Siberian Cranes, Greater Flamingo, Ruff, Black winged Stilt, Common Teal, Common Greenshank, Northern Pintail, Yellow Wagtail, White Wagtail, Northern Shoveler, Rosy Pelican, Gadwall, Wood Sandpiper, Spotted Sandpiper, Eurasian Wigeon, Black tailed Godwit, Spotted Redshank, Starling, Bluethroat, Long billed Pipit.
Migratory Birds Coming to India in Summer Season
Asian Koel, Black crowned Night Heron, Eurasian Golden Oriole, Comb Duck, Blue-cheeked Bee Eater, Blue-tailed Bee-Eater, Cuckoos.
Birds use a number of methods to find their way during migration. Many use celestial navigation, a method of orienting the body to the arc of the sun, to the phases of the moon, or to the pattern of the stars in a particular season, which is called menotaxis. Others, such as hummingbirds and pigeons, are able to determine the position of the sun even on overcast days because they can detect the ultraviolet radiation it emits.
Experiments in planetarium on night migrant birds, such as white throated warblers and indigo buntings reveal that they orient themselves by the position of stars in the night sky.
Some birds are sensitive to coriolis force that arises by deflection of winds in the northern hemisphere by earth’s rotation.
Some diurnal birds use topographical landmarks such as mountains, river valleys, and forests to orient themselves on the migration route. Some are able to detect infrasound or low-frequency sounds that are produced by pounding of the ocean surf that travel long distances and are detected by birds. Many birds, particularly seabirds, identify their destinations by characteristic odours.
Many birds possess instinct or some kind of internal compass or biological clock that guide them to the route of migration. Young birds follow the migration route accurately without previous training or experience.
Some birds such as oil birds of South America possess echolocation and can be guided by it.
The classic experiment proving the internal-clock theory was done by German Gustav Kramer during the early 1950's. He placed caged Starlings wanting to migrate so they could see the sun. The birds would sit looking in the direction toward which they wanted to fly. Significantly, if the Starlings couldn't see the sun, they didn't face in any particular direction.
Also during the 1950's, the German Franz Sauer did a similar experiment with birds that could and could not see the night stars. The results were the same: Certain species can orient themselves according to the sky's major stars. In fact, an experiment with Mallard Ducks found that if the moon is so bright that important stars are hidden by glare, released ducks can't orient themselves as well as on darker, moonless nights.
Some birds, such as pigeons, are sensitive to changes in the earth's magnetic field and to gravity because of magnetite they possess in their head and neck muscles. During the early 1970's, W.T. Keeton did a series of elegant experiments to get the answer. He glued small, non-magnetic brass bars on the backs of pigeons and on the backs of a similar group he glued miniature magnets which, he thought, might disrupt the Earth's magnetic field in the vicinity of the pigeons. When released at locations the birds had never seen before, the pigeons with non-magnetic brass bars found their ways home much better than those with magnets on their backs.
In a 2007 article in the German journal Naturwissenschaften scientists announced that they'd found tiny iron oxide crystals in the skin lining of the upper beak of homing pigeons, laid out in a 3-dimensional pattern in a way that the birds might be able to sense the Earth's magnetic field independent of their motion and posture, and thus identify their geographical position.
The researchers discovered molecules called cryptochromes, which change their chemistry in the presence of a magnetic field, in the retinas of migratory birds' eyes. When light hits these molecules, their chemistry changes and magnetism can influence them. The molecules might then affect light-sensing cells in the retina to create images, which would help the brain navigate during flight.
Infrasound travels much farther than ordinary sound and it comes from many different natural sources, including ocean waves, surf, winds, storms, earthquakes and other geologic events. If you can hear infrasound, you can listen to the whole world.
© Dr. Girish Chandra
INDIAN MIGRATORY BIRDS
(Local migratory birds are excluded)
(By Dr. Girish Chandra)
Great Crested Grebe (Podiceps cristatus) – Breeds from
Black-necked Grebe (Podiceps nigricollis) –
White Stork (Ciconia ciconia) – A Palaearctic species visiting all over
Black Stork (Ciconia nigra) – A Palaearctic species winter in
Bean Goose (Anser fabalis) – Breeds in
Grey Lag Goose (Anser anser) – A Palaearctic species wintering in
Barheaded Goose (Anser indicus) – Breeds in Ladakh and north and visits all over northern
Whooper Swan (Cygnus cygnus) – Breeds in
Mute Swan (Cygnus olor) – Breeds in
Common Shelduck (Tadorna tadorna) – A Palaearctic breeding species that is winter visitor in Indian subcontinent.
Pintail Duck (Anas acuta) – A Holarctic species that winters all over Indian subcontinent and southern
Common Teal (Anas crecca) – A Holarctic species wintering in
Mallard Duck (Anas platyrhynchos) – A Holarctic breeding species, winter visitor to all over
Gadwall Duck (Anas strepera) – A holarctic breeding species that visits throughout the Indian subcontinent in winter.
Wigeon Duck (Anas penelope) – Breeds in palaeactic region, visitor to norther
Garganey Teal (Anas querquedula) – A Palaearctic breeding species that visits throughout the Indian subcontinent in winter.
Shoveller (Anas clypeata) – Breeds in Holarctic region and winters in
Redcrested Pochard (Netta rufina) – Breeds in Mediterranean area and winter visitor to northern and southern
Common Pochard (Aythya ferina) – A Palaearctic breeding species, winter visitor to
Tufted Duck (Aythya fuligula) – A Palaearctic breeding species that winters in northern
Godeneyed Duck (Bucephala clangula) – Holarctic breeding species winter visitor to northern
Whiteheaded Stifftailed Duck (Oxyura leucocephala) – A Mediterranean species that is winter visitor to northern
Common Crane (Grus grus) – A Palaearctic breeding species, wintering in
Siberian Crane or Great White Crane (Grus leucogeranus) – Found in
Demoiselle Crane (Anthropoides virgo) – From southeastern
Grey Plover (Pluvialis squatarola) – A holarctic breeding species, wintering in southern
Golden Plover(Pluvialis apricaria) – Breeds in northern
Eastern Golden Plover (Pluvialis
Large Sand Plover (Charadrius leschenaultii) – Breeds in northern
Sand Plover (Charadrius asiaticus) – Breeds in
Persian Shearwater (Procellaria persica) – Breeds in
Curlew (Numenius arquata) – A Palaearctic breeding species, wintering in
Blacktailed Godwit (Limosa limosa) – A Palaearctic breeding species, wintering in
Bartailed Godwit (Limosa lapponica) – A holarctic breeding species, wintering in Afica,
Marsh Sandpiper (Tringa stagnatilis) – Breeds in southeastern
Greenshank (Tringa nebularia) – A Palaearctic breeding species, wintering in
Green Sandpiper (Tringa ochropus) – A Palaearctic breeding species, wintering in the African and Asian regions.
Wood Sandpiper (Tringa glareola) – A Palaearctic breeding species, wintering in
Spotted Greenshank (Tringa guttifer) – Breeds in
Terek Sandpiper (Tringa terek) – Breeds in
Common Sandpiper (Tringa hypoleucos) – A Palaearctic breeding species, wintering in
Pintail Snipe (Gallinago sternura) – Breeds from
Great Snipe (Gallinago media) – Breeds in northern
Woodcock (Scolopax rusticola) – A Palaearctic breeding species up to Himalaya and winter visitor to Assam and south Indian hills in shady forests.
Eastern Little Stint (Calidris ruficollis) – Breeds in
Little Stint (Calidris minuta) – A Palaearctic breeding species, wintering in
Curlew Sandpiper (Calidris testacea) – Breeds in northern
Broadbilled Sandpiper (Limicola falcinellus) – A Palaearctic breeding species, wintering in the Indochineses subregion.
Ruff and Reeve (Philomachus pugnax) – Breeds in
Blackbacked Gull (Larus fuscus) – Visits from northern
Herring Gull (Larus argentatus) – A Holarctic species, wintering in southern
Whitewinged Black Tern (Chlidonias leucopterus) – Breeds in southern
Indian Tern (Chlidonias hybrida) – Winter visitor from
Common Tern (Sterna hirundo) – Migrates from
Sparrow Hawk (Accipiter nisus) – A Palaearctic breeding species, visits Indian subcontinent in winter.
Fish Hawk (Pandion haliatus) – Breeds in
Buzzard (Buteo buteo) – A Palaearctic breeding species, winter visitor to all over
Tawny Eagle (
Booted Hawk Eagle (Hieraetus pennatus) – Breeds in
Hen Harrier (Circus cyaneus) – A Palaearctic breeding species, wintering in
Pale Harrier (Circus macrourus) – Breeds in
Marsh Harrier (Circus aeruginosus) – A Palaearctic breeding species wintering in
Perregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus) – A holarctic breeding species that winters in
Merlin (Falco columbarius) – A Palaearctic breeding species wintering in
Lesser Kestrel (Falco naumanni) – A Mediterranean species that winters in
Scops Owl (Otus scops) – Breeds in
Little Bustard (Otis tetrax) – European species visits northern Indian grasslands and cultivation in winter.
Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus) – A Palaearctic breeding species, wintering in Indian subcontinent.
Greyheaded Lapwing (Vanellus indicus) – Breeds from
Rufous Turtle Dove (Steptopelia orientalis) – Breeds from
The Cuckoo (Cuculus canorus) – A Palaearctic breeding species, wintering in
Himalayan Cuckoo (Cuculus saturatus) – Breeds in eastern and southern
Small Cuckoo (Cuculus poliodephalus) – Breeds in
The Swift (Apus apus) – A Palaearctic species, summer visitor to the Himalayan region
European Bee-eater (Merops apiaster) – Breeds from
Hoopoe (Upupa epops) – Breeds in
Wryneck (Jynx torquilla) – A Palaearctic breeding species, wintering in
Skylark (Alauda arvensis) – Migrates from
Swallow (Hirundo rustica) – A holarctic species wintering in the Indian subcontinent.
Redbacked Shrike (Lanius collurio) – A palaearctic species wintering in
Brown Shrike (Lanius cristatus) – Breeds from
Golden Oriole (Oriolus oriolus) – Found from
Blacknaped Oriole (Oriolus chinensis) – Breeds in northern
Rosy Pastor (Sturnus roseus) – Breeds in southeastern
Starling (Sturnus vulgaris) – Found throughout
Brown Flycatcher (Muscicapa latirostris) – Breeds in the Palaearctic region and
Brownbreasted Flycatcher (Muscicapa muttui) – Breeds in Himalayan range and winters in dense evergreen forest of peninsular
Redbreasted Flycatcher (Muscicapa parva) – A Palaearctic species winter visitor to plantations and gardens.
Cetti’s Warbler (Cettia cetti) – Distributed from
Streaked Grasshopper Warbler (Locustella lanceolata) – Breeds in
Grasshopper Warbler (Locustella naeva) –
Thickbilled Warbler (Acrocephalus aedon) – Breeds in
Easter Great Reed Warbler (Acrocephalus arundinaceus) – Breeds from
Paddyfield Warbler (Acrocephalus agricola) – Breeds in
Booted Warbler (Hippolais caligata) – From
Lesser Whitethroat (Sylvia curruca) – Breeds from
Desert Warbler (Sylvia nana) – Breeds in north Africa,
Brown Leaf Warbler (Phylloscopus collybita) – A Palaearctic species wintering from tropical
Dusky Leaf Warbler (Phylloscopus fuscatus) – Breeds in
Rubythroat (Erithacus calliope) – Breeds from
Bluethroat (Erithacus svecicus) – Breeds in
Black Redstart (Phoenicurus ochruros) – A Palaearctic breeding species that winters in northeastern
Redstart (Phoenicurus phoenicurus) – An European species migrating to
Hodgson’s Redstart (Phoenicurus hodgsoni) – Breeds in northwestern
Dark Thrush (Turdus obscurus) – Breeds in
Redthroated Thrush (Turdus ruficollis) – Breeds in
Indian Tree Pipit (Anthus hodgsoni) – Breeds from northern
Tree Pipit (Anthus trivialis) – A Palaearctic breeding species that winters in
Tawny Pipit (Anthus campestris) – Breeds from
Yellow Wagtail (Motacilla flava) – A Palaearctic breeding species, wintering in northern
Yellowheaded Wagtail (Motacilla citreola) – Breeds from
White Wagtail (Motacilla alba) – A Palaearctic species wintering in tropical
Grey Wagtail (Motacilla caspica) – Winter visitor from
Spanish Sparrow (Passer ispaniolensis) – Breeds from
Pine Bunting (Emberiza leucocephalos) – Breeds in
Blackheaded Bunting (Emberiza melanocephala) – Breeds in
winter visitor in northern
Yellowbreasted Bunting (Emberiza aureola) – A palaearctic species, winter visitor in northeastern
Blackfaced Bunting (Emberiza spodocephala) – Breeds in
Indian Jungle Nightjar (Caprimulgus indicus) – Breeds from