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Where Do Birds Migrate To?

Migrations mostly consist of birds flying south for the winter and north in spring to breed. To a large extent this reflects the distribution of the continents on the planets. There is a lot more temperate and tundra landscape in the north than in the south.

Some east/west migrations occur. Hawfinches (Coccothroustes coccothroustes), breed in Russia but overwinter in Japan and Korea, and the Evening Grosbeak (Coccothroustes respertina), migrates from New England where it overwinters to Michigan where it breeds. The White-winged Scotia breeds in central Canada, but winters on either coast.

Migrations to and from alpine areas are not uncommon, such as the Mountain Quail (Oreortyx pictus), which breeds at heights up to 3000 metres, but overwinters below 1500 metres. Interestingly, the bird is flightless so it walks up and down the mountains in groups single file.

Much rarer are migrations the other way, but the Blue Grouse (Dendrogapus obscurus), manages this by nesting lower down and moving up to the fir forests of the Rockies for winter where it feeds on fir cones.

Though most migrations involve journeys to and from temperate or tundra regions some wholly tropical to tropical migrations do occur, ie the Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher (Myiodynastes luteiventris), which performs a small north/south migration within the tropics in Central America every year.

Penguins also migrate, but obviously do not fly but swim from winter quarters to summer ones and back.

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Part of the information on this page was contributed by EarthLife.

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Last updated: 01 January 2003