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A Bird Migrates South, Step by Step

Wood Thrushes make epic, long-distance migrations

Wood Thrushes migrate more than 2,000 miles each way, between their summer breeding territories in the US and Canada to where they winter in Central America. During migration, the birds will fly for hundreds of miles at night, then stop for days or weeks to refuel. In the spring, they’ll head north three times as fast as they did during their southbound fall migration.

Support for BirdNote comes from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, offering online courses about birding. With a new nature journaling course at Academy.AllAboutBirds.org.

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Transcript: 

BirdNote®

A Bird Migrates South, Step by Step

Written by Bob Sundstrom

[Ambient bed: https://macaulaylibrary.org/asset/60169 ]

This is BirdNote.

It’s a September day in Ontario, right at dusk, and a small flock of songbirds flies out from the treetops into the cool evening air. The flock rises higher and higher and then begins heading south. It’s the start of their fall migration.

Among this mix of thrushes and orioles is a chunky, brownish bird — a Wood Thrush.

[Wood Thrush in Ontario https://macaulaylibrary.org/asset/66095 ]

This particular Wood Thrush has finished nesting in this southern Canadian woodland. Now, it will migrate 2,300 miles south to spend the winter in Costa Rica.

[Wood Thrush calls, https://macaulaylibrary.org/asset/11317 ]

Before migrating, it ate steadily for two weeks, putting on fat to fuel the flight.

Wood Thrushes migrate in great bursts. In a single night, our thrush will climb to several thousand feet and cover two or even three hundred miles before morning.

[Wood Thrush calls, https://macaulaylibrary.org/asset/11317 ]

Then, it’s time to recharge. This Wood Thrush might pause in the Florida Panhandle for ten days, before embarking at dusk on a nonstop flight across the Gulf of Mexico to the Yucatan.

[Wood Thrush calls, https://macaulaylibrary.org/asset/11317 ]

In early April, Wood Thrushes begin flying north again. But unlike the leisurely pace of fall, spring birds are in a hurry to migrate. They’ll get back to Ontario three times as fast as they got to Costa Rica.

[Wood Thrush in Ontario https://macaulaylibrary.org/asset/66095 ]

For BirdNote, I’m Michael Stein.

Support for BirdNote comes from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, offering online courses about birding. With a new nature journaling course at academy dot all about birds dot org.

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Bird sounds provided by The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. Recorded by William Gunn and Arthur Allen.
BirdNote’s theme music was composed and played by Nancy Rumbel and John Kessler.
Producer: John Kessler
Managing Producer: Jason Saul
Associate Producer: Ellen Blackstone
© 2018 Tune In to Nature.org   September 2018   Narrator: Michael Stein
 
ID# WOTH-01-2018-09-05   WOTH-01

Wood Thrush migration: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/02/090212141152.htm
and https://birdsna.org/Species-Account/bna/species/woothr/distribution

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