I am not alone in this. In fact, it is a Ba-Jillion Dollar Industry, this feeding & housing of these birds. It seems there are many of us who love to take care of the birds. Heavens knows, especially now in the cold grasp of winter, they need a little help when it comes to finding food.
But before I wander down that road, I think I’d like to look back.
People have long had a fascination about where birds go during the winter, and how they get there. In fact, historically, it has baffled many great minds for centuries on end.
I just learned that Aristotle had quite a theory about this. He suggested that birds changed species with the seasons. Presto. Change-O. He thought, perhaps, that the House Finches turned into Robins, and that Warblers shape-shifted into Black-Capped Chickadees. Magic Birds. I like it Aristotle, old pal. But.
People tried other explanations. As late as the 19th century, some naturalists thought birds hibernated. Boom. Boom. Out go the lights.
But when you think about what birds ACTUALLY do during the change of the seasons, it seems even more spectacular than shape-shifting. Thousands of bird species — at least 40 percent of the world’s birds — travel the world. They move from their Summer breeding grounds to their Winter Territories.
And. Often times, these birds put many miles on those wings. They cross entire continents and oceans. The Arctic Tern is the one who travels the most. Each year, it flies 44,000 miles, from Greenland in the Arctic north all the way down to the Weddell Sea in Antarctica.
These grand journeys are not restricted to flying birds. My cute friends, those waddling Emperor penguins march across 70 miles of ice each year from the sea to their breeding ground. That’s a long, cold walk.
But. How do they know? What makes them remember? Where to go? When to leave? There are a few theories about how birds find their way between their seasonal homes. A lot of smarty-guys-and-gals have studied this. Yet, there are still a boat-load of mysteries about how their honing systems work.
An internal GPS. Yes, for a bunch of birds, that migration is an instinct. And they all seem pretty well equipped for the journey. But every species seems a little different. Some just know, and go, as if guided by a magnetic force, which scientists have not yet figured out.
Others, like Whooping Cranes, learn the route from older birds. And still others, like Thrushes, have a set of requirements before flight. It cannot be colder than 69 degrees, and the wind cannot be swifter than 6 mph. Thrush Logic.
No matter how they do it, those birds are creatures of habit. They often end up returning to the exact same territory each year. AND. I love this. They may even return to the same area where they were hatched as chicks. Research indicates that up to 60 percent of migratory songbirds return to the same place each year.
I think that is it. Really. They have a place to call home, and they go there. They fly a great distance, or walk, to get to that place which is internally their’s and no one else’s. All the science aside, they make that arduous journey to their charge, their right, their space. Their familiarity. They go back home.
That’s how they know.
That’s how we all do it, really.
Deep inside, we always know how to get back home.
“Winter is the time for comfort, for good food and warmth, for the touch of a friendly hand and for a talk beside the fire: it is the time for home.”
― Edith Sitwell
“I live in my own little world. But its ok, they know me here.”
― Lauren Myracle
“Home isn’t where you’re from, it’s where you find light when all grows dark.”
― Pierce Brown, Golden Son