Imagine traveling to a place you’ve never been. You have neither a suitcase nor a map. To get there, you’ll have to fly hundreds of miles and pit your wits against predators and storms. Sound scary? Migrating animals do it all the time.
Monarch butterflies migrate to Mexico to escape cold weather. Those from Missouri fly for two months to make the 1,500- mile trip! Flowers fuel their flutter. Most slurp enough nectar to gain weight on the way. For monarchs, fat is where it’s at. Once they reach Mexico, they won’t eat again for five months. Migrat ion by Matt Seek, illustrated by David Besenger Millions of monarchs spend winter huddled together in trees high in the mountains of Mexico.
No one knows how monarchs find their wintering sites. Adding to this mystery is the fact that monarchs make the trip to Mexico only once.
Here’s how it works:
What weighs less than a Big Mac and can fly for two days without stopping to eat, drink or sleep? It’s an American golden-plover. These little birds migrate 20,000 miles between their summer home in Canada and their winter home in South America. Why do they fly such a long way? Some would say because it’s too far to walk, but the real reason is to feed and breed. With lots of food and space, Canada’s tundra is perfect for raising babies. But in winter, food becomes scarce and plovers must fly south or starve. ion Sensation
How do migrating birds find their way? If you’re a Canada goose, you follow mom and dad on your first trip south. After that, geese use landmarks such as rivers, lakes and coastlines to get from Point A to Point B. Other birds, including golden-plovers, use the sun, stars and Earth’s magnetic field to navigate. There’s another reason geese play follow-theleader, and it’s not so they don’t goose one another. By flying in a V, geese in the front block the wind for geese in the back. When the lead goose gets tired, it drops back and lets a different honker be leader.
Birds don’t fly south to get a good tan. They go because foods they like to eat become scarce when it gets cold. Many migrating birds get eaten by predators, are blown off course by storms or become so tired they can’t go on. To avoid these dangers, some birds don’t migrate. Most of Missouri’s eastern bluebirds don’t fly south, they just eat something different when winter strikes. During warmer months, bluebirds feast on insects. When insects disappear, they switch to berries and other fruits. Bluebirds might have to move a few miles, but they don’t have to cross the ocean to find a berry bush.
Nichole LeClair Terrill