A Moment of Science

How Do Birds Migrate And Reach Their Destination Without A Map?

Can you imagine traveling 22,000 miles without a map? The Arctic Tern's migration is one of the longest migrations in the animal kingdom.

arctic tern calling for it's mate

Photo: fearlesspunter (flickr)

An Arctic Tern calling for it's mate.

Birds all over the world are completing their migratory journeys. Sometimes their journeys are as long as 22,000 miles!

How Do They Do That?!

One bird in particular, the Arctic Tern, is able to migrate back to where it was born even if it has been separated from its parents.

Many parents leave the nest before young birds are able to fly. Yet, even without parental guidance, the young birds are able to travel home.

When they are alone, they travel in darkness and may even create landmarks when flying over water.

Another theory is that the birds are somehow able to access the earth’s magnetic north/south pole lines. The young birds use the sun and these lines to safely guide themselves. However, scientists have not been able to prove that the birds use landmarks, magnetic lines, or some other guidance system.

Reaching Their Destination

When the bird’s reach their destination they are greeted by many other species of birds and are also able to breed. With large numbers of birds, these migration destinations are great places for predators to attack. The birds must be careful to avoid becoming prey.

If the Arctic Tern survives, it can expect to live a long life (anywhere between 20 and 60 years!)

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Margaret Aprison

Margaret is a graduate of Indiana University with a degree in Telecommunications and a minor in Psychology. The daughter of two scientists, Margaret has been surrounded by the subject her entire life. She enjoys social media, writing, television, and, of course, science!

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