Each year, on the second Saturday of May, people from more than 65 countries celebrate World Migratory Bird Day. In 2013, World Migratory Bird Day is May 11. This day recognizes the greatest natural spectacle in our world today, bird migration.
At this time of year, about 50 billion birds — about 19 percent of the world’s bird population — are making the arduous journey from their southern wintering grounds to their northern breeding grounds. This journey can cover well over 35,000 miles annually for some species, while others migrate much shorter, but no less difficult journeys.
With the ever changing natural landscape, birds are facing more and more difficult journeys each year and some species are being pushed toward extinction. With food supplies dwindling, stop-over sites becoming less prevalent, pollution increasing and man-made disturbances becoming ever-more disruptive, this already Herculean journey has become nearly impossible. Yet birds that weigh less than a nickel will fly more than 500 miles over the open ocean without resting.
While these feats seem almost unbelievable, you may not realize that they are happening all around us as we speak. Something else you may not realize is how many important roles birds play in nature, from pest control to pollination to seed dispersal and so much more. That’s why it’s so vital that we do everything we can to preserve birds and their migration corridors.
So what can you do to help out these wonderful winged creatures? Learn to live with nature. Choose sustainably harvested woods. Buy ecologically friendly foods such as shade-grown coffee. Bike when possible instead of driving your car. Choose energy efficient appliances and light bulbs. Plant a native tree. Get out and bird-watch in your local parks and nature reserves. Keep your cats inside. Basically, just learn to love and appreciate nature.
A great place to start is the Indianapolis Zoo, where our mission is to empower people and communities, both locally and globally, to advance animal conservation.
If you come to the Indianapolis Zoo’s Backyard Habitat, located in the Encounters Biome, you may be lucky enough to see a red-breasted nuthatch before they head north for the summer. If you’re too late, don’t fret, the yellow-bellied sapsuckers are just arriving from their southern wintering grounds. And if you very lucky, you may just get a glimpse of the ruby-throated hummingbird, an amazing birds that weighs less than a nickel and is likely crossing the Gulf of Mexico as you read this.
While this Saturday is all about migratory birds, by helping these amazing little creatures you are also helping their counterparts — animals that, while they may not fly, endure grueling migrations as well. Animals like the polar bear, walrus, wildebeest and countless others go through the same type of arduous annual journey. And don’t forget the many migratory birds in the Zoo’s collection: the bald eagle in Forests, African crowned cranes in Plains, the Chilean flamingos and even the budgerigars in Flights of Fancy, just to name a few!
I hope you all have a great Migratory Bird Day!
Area Manager of Bird Encounters, Indianapolis Zoo
Budgerigars photo by Don Reynolds. Marabou stork photo by Fred Cate. Bald eagle photo by Alex Janin.