Last Updated on by Mitch Rezman
Short answer, “geography.”
In contrast to certain birds that embark on lengthy journeys, we do not think about our pet bird species in the wild engaging in long-distance migrations.
Instead of undergoing seasonal migrations in search of breeding grounds or improved nourishment, the majority of parrot species tend to remain relatively immobile, residing within the same geographic area for the entirety of the year.
While they may occasionally alter their location within their range in pursuit of food or appropriate nesting spots, these movements are not typically classified as true migrations in the conventional sense.
Feathered factoid: Large parrots like scarlet macaws will fly upward of 50 miles daily in search of food.
Parrots thrive in tropical and subtropical areas, where the environment offers consistent nourishment and weather patterns all year long.
Do exceptions exist?
Autumn in Tasmania, swift parrots, engage in breeding activities. Subsequently, in the months of February and March, these birds undertake a migration to mainland Australia. This arduous journey compels them to traverse the Bass Strait, an expanse of water roughly 150 miles in breadth. The Bass Strait serves as a divider, separating Victoria, Australia, from Tasmania to the south.
Swift parrots, true to their title, possess remarkable swiftness in their flight, traversing extensive distances that surpass those covered by any other parrot species.
It is estimated that swift parrots embark on journeys spanning 1,243 miles (equivalent to 2,000 kilometers) every year.
A visiting Swift parrot migrant in Canberra, Australian Capital Territory
The swift parrot’s migration is determined by the abundance of food sources that are available to them.
Just like lories and lorikeets, they possess a brush-like tongue as they are nectar feeders. This information is in accordance with the Tasmania Parks.
During the blooming months of September to December in Tasmania, the landscape is adorned with an extravagant amount of blue gums known as eucalyptus.
This period coincides with the nesting season of swift parrots, who diligently lay their eggs, patiently awaiting their hatching, which usually takes slightly over three weeks.
It is during this time that the parrots and their newborn chicks benefit from the copious reserves of nectar provided by the blossoming blue gums.
However, around the months of March or April, the swift parrots gracefully bid farewell to Tasmania and embark on their journey back to mainland Australia.
According to the Australian Government Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population & Communities, orange-bellied parrots migrate yearly from their breeding site in south-western Tasmania, in a northward direction, along the western and north-western coast of Tasmania and through the western Bass Strait to spend the non-breeding period on the Australian mainland.
They return using the same route.
The orange-bellied parrot’s range in Tasmania is in coastal southwest, Tasmania, while the swift parrot’s is mostly in southeast Tasmania, but with a wider overall range.
Unlike swift parrots, orange-bellied parrots are not nectar eaters; they eat regional seeds and grasses.
Most of our pet birds are indigenous to areas that are temperate for 12 months a year.
With that housekeeping out of the way, let’s explore some of the other 10,000 species of birds populating our planet.
What prompts birds to embark on migratory journeys?
May and September are the months in which the majority of birds migrate in the United States.
During this time, a wide variety of bird species including warblers, hummingbirds, buntings, waterfowl, raptors, swallows, and shorebirds among others, embark on their journeys.
The primary driving forces behind these large-scale movements are the need for food, reproduction, and safety.
Birds migrate for various reasons, with food and resources being important factors.
However, many bird species also synchronize their migration journeys with the changing day length in order to detect seasonal shifts.
Take warblers, orioles, tanagers, and swallows, for instance; these insect-eating birds time their northward travel to coincide with the surge in insect populations during spring.
Similarly, in autumn, regardless of the availability of abundant food sources, they embark on their journey again as the days grow shorter.
Feathered factoid: The humble Arctic tern holds the record for frequent flier miles traveling approximately 22,000 miles annually.
They breed in the Arctic regions during the summer and then migrate all the way to the Antarctic region for the Southern Hemisphere’s summer, covering incredible distances in the process.
This migratory pattern allows them to experience continuous daylight and access to food sources in both polar regions.
In their quest for nourishment, hummingbirds exhibit remarkable skills when it comes to migration.
Take, for instance, the ruby-throated hummingbird – a species that winters in Mexico, Central America, and southern Florida.
As the first buds burst into vibrant blooms, signaling the arrival of spring, these tiny creatures embark on a journey northward.
Their relentless flight eventually leads them to their ultimate destination: the farthest reaches of their breeding grounds, typically reached by late May or early June.
In late August or early September, when the vibrant northern flowers start to wither away, these birds embark on their journey southward.
As they bid farewell to the fading blossoms, they are greeted by the captivating sight of brilliantly blooming southern flowers.
Apart from the natural phenomenon of flower cycles, the irregular migrations of these avian creatures are also influenced by their quest for food.
A prime example can be found in nomadic birds like the cedar waxwing, which don’t adhere to traditional annual migrations but instead seek out areas abundant in nourishment to ensure their survival.
Once a particular region, like an orchard or a berry plantation, exhausts its food supply, these birds will swiftly relocate to the nearest alternative feeding site.
Birds embark on long, arduous journeys driven by their innate desire to reproduce.
Avian beings undertake journeys in search of necessary provisions.
How do we keep tabs on birds during their migratory journeys?
It can be captivating to observe the perpetual movement of birds and monitor their journeys using migration maps.
Field guides, including the ones available online such as the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and BirdCast, as well as various birding applications, present extensive range maps illustrating the breeding and wintering territories of different bird species.
The gaps amidst those intervals frequently serve as the voyage or movement route, and various online platforms and printed materials accentuate the routes taken during migration.
Utilizing a map dedicated to migration can assist avid bird enthusiasts in monitoring their beloved species and identifying the birds’ travel patterns when observed outside their usual territories during the seasons of spring and autumn.
Gaining a deep comprehension of the reasons behind birds’ migratory patterns enables bird enthusiasts to develop a heightened admiration for the remarkable adaptability and endurance exhibited by these winged creatures.
Moreover, this understanding equips them with the knowledge to identify optimal locations for observing their favorite bird species throughout various seasons.
Written and Approved by the Windy City Parrot Content Team