Each spring and fall in the Madison area is a special time in so many ways. One reason is that we are fortunate to witness firsthand one of the most awe-inspiring and captivating phenomena in the natural world. Local elections. Wait, no… definitely not that. I’m referring, of course, to the arrival and departure of Wisconsin’s splendiferous migrating birds. Twice each year, the land, air, and water are abuzz with wandering warblers, flitting flycatchers, sojourning swans, and roaming raptors. These and other amazing birds are in the midst of an arduous annual journey, often traveling many thousands of miles in search of quality feeding, roosting, or breeding spots.
Bird migration has both entranced and perplexed us for at least as long as we’ve been recording our history. In order to explain the annual vanishing of common redstarts and the appearance of European robins, for example, Aristotle speculated that each redstart simply transformed itself into a robin in winter. Not to be outdone, 17th-century English minister and scientist Charles Morton claimed that birds simply migrated to the moon and back each year. Lunacy.
Thankfully, many years of careful observation, research, and advancement in technologies have shed light on the mysteries of bird migration and revealed its marvelous nature. Why do birds undertake such daunting journeys? How do they manage to navigate over such extensive distances? How do they survive such a taxing physical effort and the many perils they face along the way? If you’ve ever spied a beautiful bird at the Preserve and pondered these and similar questions, this talk on the science and splendor of avian migration might just be for you.
Presented by Matt Reetz, Madison Audubon executive director
Hosted by the Friends of the Lakeshore Nature Preserve
Cover photo by Arlene Koziol