Bird talk with the RSPB

PUBLISHED: 16:49 02 December 2010 | UPDATED: 17:59 20 February 2013

Bird talk with the RSPB

Bird talk with the RSPB

Birds are gathering their passports for journeys in and out of the UK, says Alexis Johnson, RSPB Field Studies Officer

Time to take flight

Birds are gathering their passports for journeys in and out of the UK, says Alexis Johnson, RSPB Field Studies Officer

As we are now well into autumn, the air has turned increasingly crisp and we begin to daydream about places that are warmer and drier than Shropshire. Dont worry, youre not alone along with many of our fellow human beings, millions of birds are on the same wavelength and many have already embarked on voyages to places near and far.

Have you noticed how familiar faces such as swallows, swifts and others disappear when autumn arrives? Yet other birds, like redwing and whooper swans, arrive in the county during winter? The short cold winter days in Shropshire force some birds, such as chiffchaffs and swallows, to move to warmer countries.

These birds cant cope with the cold temperatures, so they fly south where the weather is warmer and food sources more plentiful. However, our abundant hedgerow berries and milder winter temperatures (well, milder than places like Scandinavia anyway) make Shropshire a tempting retreat for many winter visitors.

All over the world, birds are migrating. The annual event has evolved as a way for birds to take advantage of resources that are seasonally abundant and to go elsewhere when the resources become scarce or harsh weather arrives.

The most common pattern involves flying north to breed in the temperate or Arctic summer and returning to wintering grounds in warmer regions to the south.

During autumn, all swallows and swifts migrate to Africa, south of the Sahara. They are joined in Africa by many other species, including cuckoos, ospreys, wagtails, flycatchers, house martins and the warblers.

Many ducks, geese and waders arrive here during the winter, heading for lakes, ponds and flood meadows along rivers. Fieldfares and redwings arrive in millions around November listen out for their zeeeet calls overhead during your bonfire night celebrations.

Birds that migrate over long distances need sophisticated navigation systems based on a variety of senses, including using the sun for direction during the day and navigating by stars at night.

Different birds travel in different ways. Swallows and martins migrate in small hops. They feed on flying insects as they travel and land to roost each night in places like reedbeds to conserve energy.

Warblers travel largely at night. Many of them fly non-stop for several days and nights.

Large birds like ospreys are too big to store much extra fat in their bodies so they use rising air called thermals to help soar high and travel large distances.

But the master of them all has to be the Arctic tern the worlds record migrant. Some nest north of the Arctic Circle and each autumn travel all the way south to the Antarctic regions. Each year they fly an incredible 35-40,000 miles on migration.

The fact that most birds can carry several passports makes conservation an international responsibility.

The RSPB is the UK Partner of BirdLife International which is a global partnership of conservation organisations that strives to conserve birds, their habitats and global biodiversity, working with people towards sustainability in the use of natural resources.

Were currently working with our partners to protect the worlds albatrosses from needlessly getting killed on fishing hooks, saving the Sumatran rainforest and the wildlife that belong there, among numerous other campaigns.

Please support our work to secure a healthy environment for birds and other wildlife in the UK and internationally. For more
information and updates on our progress, check out

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