Delicate Journey

Most birds in the U.S. spend a remarkable amount of their time — about a third of their lives — in the act of migration. A scientist talks about migratory birds and their delicate journey.

Sarah Mabey of North Carolina State University.

Mabey studies songbirds in the southeastern U.S. using Doppler radar — helping to identify the resources they need for their migratory journeys.

Mabey: This period of their lives, we know is very costly… If you’re thinking of a migratory songbird, this little bird that weighs less than your pocket change, navigating across thousands of miles…

With the rise of new obstacles like cell towers and skyscrapers, and the loss of habitat like bottomland forests — it’s becoming a lot harder for birds to find their food and habitat. Sometimes that can mean a delay of a couple of days or a week.

Mabey: And that may not seem like a lot. But if you are a male warbler, trying to beat your way back from Costa Rica to Connecticut, and you are delayed for a week because it has been hard for you to find the resources that you need to fuel your journey, then you have missed out on getting the best territory and the best mate. And you may not breed that year. That’s a tremendous consequence.

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