Why don’t migrating birds get lost?

Why don’t migrating birds get lost?

Could you travel thousands of kilometres without getting lost?

Brrrrrr! It's getting cold! Some animals have a cunning plan to escape the cold weather - they migrate. Migration is a journey that an animal takes regularly, usually at the same time every year.

Animals that migrate in winter are moving to a warmer place or country where there is more food available.

Lots of birds migrate. Some migrate from the UK to Africa and southern Europe in winter. Some birds migrate from northern Europe to the UK. Who'd have thought the UK would be a pleasant place to spend the winter?

Geese migrating_95431132

Migrating geese

How do birds know where to go?

Some birds migrate over 70,000 kilometres! How do they know where to go? Why don't they get lost? They don't have maps or sat navs. Scientists think there are a several different methods that birds use to navigate. Sometimes birds use a combination of these methods:

  • Some birds have magnetite above their nostrils. This helps them to use the Earth's magnetic field to navigate.
  • Some birds navigate use landscape features, such as coastline, mountains or even motorways!
  • Some birds use the position of the sun and stars to navigate.

Pretty impressive! Could you navigate without a map?

Sometimes migration has to be taught!

Some birds learn the migration routes from their parents. If the birds are raised in captivity, humans have to teach them, using a plane! Have a look at this video of whooping cranes being taught to migrate.

Can you migrate?

Your name is Swallow. Simon Swallow to be precise. It's cold and dark in wintery Britain. Your feathers aren't keeping you warm any more. There are no insects for you to eat. Your mission is to migrate to sunny South Africa. Will you make it?

I'm sorry, it appears you do not have flash installed.

Curriculum information