If youâ€™re a backward bird enthusiast, you must know all birds donâ€™t migrate. Most of them make their way south while others prefer staying in the north during the harsh winter months. For your information, around 75% of 650 North American breeding birds are migratory.
Have you ever wondered why some birds migrate and others donâ€™t? Some birds migrate in search of new food sources, especially foods being scarce in their regions. For the same reasons, other birds donâ€™t migrate if there are abundant food sources out there. Harsh temperatures are not the main reason for birdsâ€™ migration.
Besides, we have found a couple of observations about birdsâ€™ migration.
- Adult females and juveniles are more like to migrate than adult males because the males can better survive the cold.
- Rural birds are more like to migrate than urban birds because the birds in cities usually get more food.
Now, weâ€™re going to talk about which birds stay year-round, how non-migratory birds adapt to harsh cold, and how you can help non-migratory birds. After reading this article, we suggest taking a look at what temperatures birds can survive in winter.
Read Also: 20 Different Types of Bird Migration
Why Do Some Birds Migrate?
The reasons that birds take into account to migrate to warmer climates are:
1. Running Out of Food Sources
Most birds migrate in winter in search of food sources because insects, fruits, and flower nectar become scarce at that time. Thatâ€™s why insect-eater swallows and flycatchers have to migrate to warmer regions. Orioles and hummingbirds who feed on fruits and flower nectar respectively need to migrate as well.
2. Searching For a Better Climate
Some birds are out there that migrate to find a better climate. For example, many birds travel from their Arctic breeding grounds to the more temperate habitat to avoid the brutal cold. On the other hand, some parent birds migrate from the hottest tropical regions to the harshest climates to raise their chicks.
3. Breeding and Taking Care of the Family
Itâ€™s obvious that birds migrate in spring for breeding. However, you might be surprised to know that some birds migrate to help their chicks survive. The parents abandon their mature young and remain with their immature, inexperienced chicks so that they can be able to travel alone for the next time.
4. Ensuring Safety From Predators
The areas with abundant food sources throughout the year invite numerous predators. Thatâ€™s why some birds migrate to different locations to avoid the threats of predators. The habitats that predators donâ€™t get access to include rocky offshore islands and steep coastal cliffs.
5. Avoiding Diseases
Some birds migrate to different habitats to avoid parasites and diseases. Sometimes, an unknown disease can devastate an entire breeding colony. To keep themselves and their offspring safe, they have to migrate. After all, they have to migrate for their survival.
Why Do Some Birds Not Migrate?
Here are some reasons why some birds donâ€™t migrate.
1. Having Available Seeds and Insects
Seed and berry-eating birds like cardinals, chickadees, finches, and robins donâ€™t usually migrate because they find their treats year-round. Besides, some birds that can eat insects and spiders under tree bark donâ€™t want to head south. They convert the food into body heat and cope with cold snaps.
2. Saving Energy
Some birds donâ€™t migrate to save energy to overwinter in their own territory. Instead of traveling further south, they use the energy to forage, protect themselves from predators, raise their chicks, and do other activities to survive harsh winter weather.
3. Defending Territory
More territorial birds donâ€™t want to migrate to warmer regions. The list of non-migratory territorial birds includes common ravens, black-capped chickadees, black vultures, pileated woodpeckers, etc. They remain in their territory to protect their habitats from migrating birds in spring.
4. Nurturing Young
Some birds are out there that prefer nurturing their young to migrating to warmer regions to overwinter. This extra care from the parents helps the babies survive inclement weather and be healthy and strong. Later in the season, some non-migrating birds may raise additional broods.
5. Living in the Tropics
Birds that live in tropical areas donâ€™t need to migrate. This is because theyâ€™re still living in warm areas. The winter in these areas is not too harsh. The tropical states of the United States are Florida, California, Texas, and Hawaii. Some birds in these regions may not experience four seasons.
Which Birds Stay Put All Year?
Many birds are out there that stay put all year in their own territory. Around 25% of breeding birds in North America donâ€™t migrate. Some of the more familiar non-migratory birds are:
- Birds of prey, like crested caracaras and black vultures.
- A variety of woodpeckers, such as pileated, downy, hairy, and red-bellied woodpeckers.
- Some owls, including screech, barred, and great horned owls.
- Numerous gamebirds, like quail, chukars, sage-grouse, ring-necked pheasant, and especially wild turkeys.
- Several chickadees and tits, such as black-capped chickadees, Carolina chickadees, and tufted titmice..
- Many corvids, including common ravens, black-billed magpies, grey jays, and blue jays.
- A few common songbirds, such as northern mockingbirds and northern cardinals.
- A special type of hummingbird, the Anna’s hummingbird.
Apart from that, there are a few more birds that donâ€™t migrate to warmer regions to overwinter. We have an in-depth article on the 10 most common non-migratory birds in North America. We suggest you take a quick look.
How Do Non-migratory Birds Adapt to Winter Weather?
To survive inclement weather, migration is mandatory for birds. However, birds that donâ€™t migrate to warmer regions must adapt to harsh winter climates. How are their adaptations to cope with the chilly environment? Here are a few techniques non-migratory birds usually follow.
#Modify Food Preferences
Birds that don’t head south may eat insects, seeds, berries, and grains in summer and spring. When winter strikes and these foods are not abundant, they have to switch to nuts and fruits. Backyard bird feeders help non-migratory birds have seeds and grains in harsh winter months.
Non-migratory birds often store enough food like nuts and seeds in late summer and fall. They hide these food items in protected areas so that they can retrieve these snacks in the late fall and winter. The best food hiding spots are bark crevices, tree cavities, and underground.
Some non-migratory birds are out there that molt in late summer and early fall to withstand extreme northern climates in late fall and throughout the winter. During the period, they gain an additional layer of protective down feathers that help them preserve body heat for longer.
#Having Bold Personalities
Non-migratory birds are usually more aggressive than others. These birds have dormant personalities. Besides, theyâ€™re intelligent and curious as well. Consequently, they always try to investigate new sources of food and shelter. Thatâ€™s why they donâ€™t need to migrate to warmer regions.
Many year-round residents, such as chickadees, nuthatches, wrens, and downy woodpeckers make mixed flocks to forage in winter. As multiple eyes search for food, they help one another to get a sufficient amount of food to survive cold climates.
#Roosting At Night
In order to survive chilly winter nights, non-migratory birds roost at night to share their body heat. Many small non-migratory songbirds, like chickadees and tits, roost into tree cavities. Some of them use winter bird roost boxes to protect themselves from cold snaps.
How Can You Help Non-migratory Birds?
Whether you help or not, non-migratory birds survive harsh winter weather on their own. However, as a backyard bird enthusiast, you have some responsibility to help non-migratory birds in extreme weather conditions. Here are a few tips you can follow.
1. Install Backyard Bird Feeders
If youâ€™re looking for helping non-migratory birds, install several backyard bird feeders. Add high-energy foods, such as black oil sunflower seeds, safflower seeds, cracked corn, peanuts, berries, mealworms, suet, and white milo to the feeders. Surely, your backyard visitors will thank you!
Which bird feeders are the best for winter? If youâ€™re looking for a quality window bird feeder, we suggest taking a look at Wild Birds of Joy Window Bird Feeder on Amazon. For suet, the Nature’s Way Suet Upside-Down Bird Feeder could be what you actually wanted.
2. Offer a Clean Source of Water
Birds need water in winter as they require water in other seasons. If youâ€™re willing to help non-migratory birds survive inclement weather, offer a clean source of water, I mean a birdbath with shallow edges not more than 3 inches deep. A pedestal-style birdbath can be the right one for them.
Considering all these things in mind, we think the Alpine Corporation Ceramic Antique Pedestal Birdbath could be what youâ€™re actually looking for. Make sure to add the GESAIL Bird Bath Heater to the bath. By the way, the GESAIL Heated Bird Bath can be the one-stop solution.
3. Install Bird Houses
Another way of helping overwintering birds is installing birdhouses in your backyard. Birdhouses provide birds shelter from harsh winter weather. You can buy one or make a DIY birdhouse for them. Make sure that the entrance hole is wide enough for small songbirds, like bluebirds and martins.
European starlings are the predators of small songbirds. Thatâ€™s why you should choose a starling-resistant birdhouse. In our opinion, the Birds Choice Starling Resistant Entrance Bird House on Amazon is the best option we have ever experienced.
4. Make A Bird-Friendly Backyard
If you really want to help non-migratory birds, we suggest you make your backyard bird-friendly. Non-migratory birds, like northern cardinals, prefer dense thickets and woodland edges. So, you should plant native trees, like hackberry, holly, cherry, mulberry, and dogwood in your backyard.
Not only cardinals, but other non-migratory birds love your backyard and feel attracted to visit it year-round. Because of the native plants, the insect population will increase. As a result, birds will remain in your backyard not only in winter but throughout the year.
5. Provide Windbreaks
During the winter months, cold snaps can make us vulnerable. What about wild birds? While we wear thick clothing, birds are unclothed. How would you provide them with windbreaks? Evergreen shrubs and trees can be the best windbreaks to protect non-migratory birds from harsh winter winds.
If youâ€™re a bird lover and would like to help birds survive harsh winter weather, make sure to plant evergreen shrubs and trees in your backyard. If these plants are not available, grow a brush pile as a temporary shelter. For small birds, tall grasses and thick layers of ferns could be better.
6. Ensure Protection From Predators
Along with sheltering non-migratory birds, you have to ensure their safety from a wide variety of predators, like cats, raccoons, snakes, squirrels, and other birds. House sparrows and European starlings can harm bluebirds in birdhouses. Placing bluebird-friendly birdhouses is the key.
If you own a cat, make sure to keep it indoors during the winter months. Cats are one of the main predators of small songbirds. According to ABCbirds, cats kill around 2.4 billion birds in the United States every year. So, your feathered friend can be a big threat to your backyard visitor in winter.
To sum up, birds mostly migrate in search of food. Apart from that, they migrate for breeding, searching for a better climate, ensuring safety from predators, and avoiding parasites and diseases. One thing is clear that non-migratory birds are stronger than migratory ones.
However, we hope you have learned a lot about why some birds migrate and others donâ€™t. If you have ever helped a non-migratory bird in your backyard, what was your experience with the bird? Let us know it below in the comment section.