Long Hops: Making Sense of Bird Migration

Long Hops Making Sense of Bird MigrationThe concept of bird migration is far from new to even the most casual backyard birder. Many birds come and go as the seasons change. On the surface, migration, or why birds would bother to migrate, is quite obvious. Food sources change as the time of year changes. The decision to stay put or travel becomes one of life or death.

Long Hops: Making Sense of Bird Migration dives deep into this fascinating subject. But more importantly for birders, Mark Denny makes this highly scientific topic accessible and readable.

From the start Mr. Denny makes no assumptions of the reader’s knowledge and covers in great detail the ins and outs of bird migration. The first chapter covers the Who, Why, Where, and When of migrating birds while the rest of the text focuses on the most complex, the How.

Pfeilstorch - arrow stork
Pfeilstorch – “arrow stork” – an accidental way that birds were once “banded”. That is, a bird survived after being struck by an arrow and was found later in another location.
Birds have an incredible number of tools to get them from point A to point B. They are naturally born navigators and have senses that as humans have a hard time grasping (like seeing polarized light and using quantum mechanical equations). And of course there’s that fun little skill they have called flying.

Interestingly enough, not all bird migration is done by air, and many migrant birds don’t even travel that far. Although, Long Hops focuses rightly so on the birds that do travel great distances, those “long distance migrants”. For those birds that cross oceans and continents, Denny poses the question: Where is their true home – where they breed or where they winter? He also paints the dismal picture of just how many of these daring migrants disappear into the vast open seas.

Long Hops thoroughly covers bird migration but there is still a great deal to be researched. One major area is how birds can adapt to the ever changing climate.

“Evidence from the past provides hope, and much current research suggests that migration behavior, in some species at least, is adapting appropriately and rapidly.”

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