How climate change is changing birds’ migratory habits

The migratory habits of birds found in Central Europe have changed in recent years. Man’s ability to adapt sometimes makes us forget that not all species can adapt so quickly to change. Other creatures need to maintain certain patterns of fixed behaviors throughout their lives in order to survive.

For the last two decades, birds have been showing drastic changes in their eating and migratory habits. Without a doubt, these variations are directly related to temperature changes. Which are taking place in different latitudes of the world.

Migratory habits

During the winter an average of 5,000 birds descend to Africa every year. They leave their area of origin to take advantage of the best climatic conditions on the African continent. As well as a different variety of foods.

However, migrating birds have to work harder to get food on the neighbouring continent. Because in Africa they have to compete with native species for insects and fruit. So, as climate change offers more temperate and bearable winters, many birds are abandoning migration.

This is just one of the consequences of the climate crisis. And although it may not seem so serious, the upheavals that these sudden changes are causing can eventually lead to the disappearance of an important part of the European ecosystem.

Another consequence of climate change is short migrations. This trend is occurring among birds that have not yet given up migrating. But they find that before they reach Africa, there are closer lands equally warm and with food.

Blackcaps, for example, now only travel half the distance they used to travel in previous decades.

Migration in the Strait of Gibraltar

For experts interested in the topic of bird migrations, the Strait of Gibraltar, located between the far south of Europe and the far north of Africa, is a strategic place for data collection. Every year an average of 400,000 birds of all sizes and shapes from both continents come together in Gibraltar.

The Migres Foundation, in cooperation with other scientific bodies, has promoted different studies on this site. Aimed at understanding the migratory behaviour of these birds. Some of the conclusions of those studies will surprise you.

Specific ideal territory

Temperature changes in different regions have prevented some birds from returning to their point of origin after migration.

On their return home, some birds settle in other territories to take advantage of more benevolent temperatures. The disadvantage of this is that such birds then move away from their specific ideal territory. And it can happen, as it is already happening, that they do not get the same amount of food. Not the same ease of building their nests.

Birds and butterflies without synchronization

In a study, this time belonging to the Montes Consolider project. Several Spanish researchers agreed that between 1990 and 2008 the average temperature in Europe turned 249 kilometres northwards.

It would be expected that the animals would move this same distance in order to continue fulfilling their life cycles. But the data obtained indicate that most of the European gliding birds only moved 37 kilometers. The butterflies, on the other hand, advanced a little more, with a distance of 114 kilometers.

In European ecosystems the developmental relationships between birds and butterflies are quite important. Because they help model different ecosystems. But if these animals cannot meet in the same place, these relationships are abruptly interrupted.

The importance of raising awareness

When the biological cycle of animals is interrupted, not everyone is able to adapt to the new rhythm.

In the case of migratory birds it has come to be seen, for example, that some species are beginning to return from the south days and even weeks after the date on which they are due to do so. As a result, these birds find very little food available and are unable to feed their young.

So if we want to keep as many species as possible intact. It is essential that we start by changing the way we treat waste, waste or fuel gases.

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