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From Mile To Mile!
This story appears in the issue of School LIVE.
Have you ever witnessed a v-shaped flock of birds in the sky and wondered where they come from or where they are headed? Seeing them flying high in the sky, it’s common for all of us to begin our own flight of imagination and trigger our curious minds. But how much do we really know about birds who undertake the journey of hundreds of miles, every year?

Birds undertake long journeys in order to reach a certain place with suitable ecological conditions and habitat for feeding, breeding and raising their young. Due to unfavorable conditions at their current breeding sites, migratory birds fly to those regions where conditions are better. Basically, birds fly from areas of low resources to areas of high resources. Approximately, 40% of all birds are known to migrate from one place to another.

 

Migration can be from one continent to another or it can also be as short as moving from higher to lower elevation on a mountainside. There are various patterns of migration for different species of birds. While most of the birds migrate from northern areas to southern wintering grounds in the summer, some birds breed in the southern regions of Africa and migrate to northern grounds to enjoy the milder coastal climates of winters, instead. Other birds migrate higher up a mountain during the summer months and reside on lowlands in winters. Some birds even migrate to far off places where their round trip can be as long as 44,000 miles which is equivalent to two round-the-world trips. Doesn’t it sound fascinating?

 

These migratory birds have the perfect body structures that enable them to fly across long distances, quickly. However, their long journeys can often be exhausting. These migratory birds hence divide their journey in smaller milestones to rest and feed. Although the exact navigation process of migrating birds has not yet been fully understood or discovered, what has been deduced is that these birds use landmarks, the sun, stars, and the earth's magnetic field, itself to navigate during their journeys.

Migratory Birds In India

Thousands of beautiful birds migrate to India during summer and winter seasons for food and breeding. Here are some of the most commonly seen migratory birds in India: 

Falcated Duck

This East Asian native has a green and coppery toned head, white throat and an almost-grey body. In winters, a Falcated Duck migrates from its home in parts of China, Russia, and North Korea to southern Asia. It can be found in the lakes of Assam’s Dibru-Saikhowa region during their stay in India. 

Greater Hoopoe-lark

The Greater Hoopoe-lark is a winter migratory bird. It can be found in the desert and semi-desert areas of India in the winter months. Its light brown and sandy colour helps it camouflage in the desert land. It’s mostly found in the Greater Rann and Little Rann of Kutch. This long-legged bird with a slender body has black-winged feathers with a whitetail and is very attractive to look at.

Siberian Crane

A Siberian Crane is known to migrate during winters in India from the northeastern part of Siberia. Sadly, it is a critically endangered species. Initially, it was spotted in fine numbers in Bharatpur Keoladeo National Park till 2002. Since then, the population of this snowy white beauty with black feathers has declined rapidly.

Greater Flamingo

During the coldest times, a Greater Flamingo of Asia migrates to the warmer regions of India. As implicated by the name, it is the largest amongst the flamingo family. Greater Flamingos are found in Nal Sarovar Bird Sanctuary, Khijadiya Bird Sanctuary, Flamingo City and in the Thol Bird Sanctuary of Gujarat during the entire winter season. Their light pink coloured bodies are the easiest to spot.

Rosy Pelican

Rosy Pelican is a winter migratory bird which migrates all the way from Europe to India. Pelicans have gigantic beaks that help them catch several fishes in one go. Hence, Rosy Pelicans migrate to India for fresh, shallow lakes with plenty of fish. 

Gadwall

From its home in Northern America and Europe, Gadwall flies all the way east to north and central India. Gadwall generally prefers shallow water bodies. It is a tiny duck with grey, brown, and black patterns on its body and can be spotted most notably in Bhopal.

World Migratory Day

World Migratory Bird Day came into being in 2006 to highlight the need for conservation of migratory birds and their habitat. This year, the theme has been considered as ‘Protect Birds: Be the Solution to Plastic Pollution!’ It is being celebrated twice in 2019 - 11th May and 12th October. World Migratory Bird Day encourages people around the world to take action and organize public events such as bird festivals, education programmes, exhibitions and bird-watching excursions to make people aware about the declining numbers of migratory birds. 

Migratory birds face several threats from human activities during their journeys as well as on reaching their destination. Since global warming and climate change are also creating an ecological mismatch, there is a constant decrease in migratory birds, every year. Plastic pollution is another major problem that has been affecting many birds and animals adversely. The motive behind the theme of WMBD 2019 is to bring attention to all the ways in which plastic waste has affected birds. With plastic products being constantly produced in massive quantities, most of these plastic wastes end up in water bodies. This floating plastic is then often mistakenly consumed by birds as food. 

Unknowingly, the birds even feed it to their vulnerable chicks. Due to this ingestion of plastic materials and particles, thousands of birds die every year or get injured and drowned due to their entanglement in waste materials through abandoned fishing nets and plastic bags. While we take stock of the grave situation and create as much awareness as possible, it is also important to remember that we need to be kind - not just to our fellow human beings - but also to the birds and the animals whose lives we affect.

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