The Science Of Our Bird Migrations In Spring I Oxford Open Learning

The Science Of Our Bird Migrations In Spring

Spring Bird Migrations In The UK

With Britain having its 6th wettest April since records began, the average Brit could at the time be forgiven for thinking that Spring had not begun, even though it was a month past the Spring Equinox. Thankfully, May did revert to a more typical Spring climate, but the fact that 2023 also recorded the wettest March on record suggests that sunshine may not be the best physical indicator of the arrival of Spring, as UK seasons become noticeably less defined.

Why Are We So Appealing?

However, the spring migratory patterns of birds coming to the UK remains a more reliable physical indicator of the arrival of the season. Birds come to the UK in Spring because it is an excellent climate for raising young. As a result of our days being cooler and longer than they are in Sub-Saharan Africa (where many of our migrating birds originate), they can spend longer hunting for food to help the family grow. There are also fewer natural predators and less competition than in Africa so it’s an all-round better hunting environment.

Who Pays Us A Visit?

It would be wrong to think of Spring Migration as being akin to the arrivals lounge of Heathrow at the start of the holiday season. Spring Migration is not a singular process with thousands of birds blackening our skies on the dawn of the Spring Equinox. Rather, Spring bird migration to the UK comes in many waves and happens gradually between late February and May. The first wave of ornithological visitors are the Wheatears and Sand Martins, arriving from late February onwards. These are very much the early birds who catch the worm! Chiffchaffs, Osprey, Swallows (think Swallows and Amazons), and Ring Ouzels can also bear the cooler temperatures of the blackened of winter and follow next in early March. Willow Warblers, Blackcaps, Yellow Wagtails, and tree pits start arriving in late March, marking the Spring Equinox.

April is perhaps the peak season for arrival with no fewer than 16 varieties of migratory birds arriving during the month. So, maybe April is a little bit like the start of the bird holiday season! This is when some of the most well-known bird varieties arrive such as House Martins, Nightingales, (known for their noticeable bird song, especially at night), Cuckoos (another bird with a very distinctive sound), and Swifts.

By the start of May the Spring Migration is over and many of these visitors will be nestling in treetops or maybe even in your attic!


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