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Migration - what, when and why


Over 40 per cent of birds migrate, even the blackbird in your garden could be a visitor from eastern Europe. Birds mainly migrate to increase their chance of finding food. The UK is an amazing place for migratory birds and depending on the time of year, you could be spotting birds from the Arctic or Africa. Read on to learn more about the movements of birds throughout the year...



Thousands of migratory birds leave northern Europe and the Arctic in the late Summer as temperatures begin to drop and the days start to get shorter. The winter days here in the UK are longer, the weather is milder Marvellous Migrations Displays a larger version of this image in a new browser window and food is easier to find. In spring, they fly back to the Arctic to breed and raise their young. But why do they go to the Arctic at all? As summer arrives in the Arctic; the snow melts, releasing nutrients which were frozen in the ice, this kicks off a bloom of plants who attract swarms of insects. Birds travel there from all over the world to exploit the huge abundance of food and the long daylight hours. The Arctic is a brilliant place to be in the summer but the conditions there are too harsh for most birds during the winter. 

Cick on the image to the left to explore some of the amazing migrations taken by some of the winter visitors to the Solent. 



Summer visitors fly to the UK from further south; Tern chick Displays a larger version of this image in a new browser window mostly from the Mediterranean and Africa. During the summer there is more food here and daylight hours are longer which means there's more time to forage for your breakfast, lunch and dinner. Finding a place where food is in plenty supply is extremely important for birds who are breeding and raising young, they have to feed both themselves and their newborn  chicks. In the autumn, our days get shorter and temperatures start to drop so summer migrants (and their 'chicks') return south to their wintering grounds. If you are on the Solent coast during the summer months, look out for terns and gulls.



Pit stop - Spring and Autumn

Other birds pass through the UK on migration during autumn and spring. These birds are migrating further south to the Mediterranean and Africa or further North to Iceland, Greenland, Scandinavia or even the high Arctic. For them the Solent is like a motorway services; they stop for a break in their journey, have a wash and refuel.