Migratory birds leave their territory mainly because of the poorer food supply in the cold season. The frost means that fewer insects, grains and fruits are available, explains Gábor Wichmann, managing director of Non-governmental organization BirdLife, today in conversation with SALZBURG24. For some species it has therefore paid off in evolutionary terms to fly several hundred kilometers south and back again.
Well-known native bird species in Salzburg:
- Long-distance migrants: barn swallows, house martins, storks, warbler, garden warbler
- Short-haul migrants: field larch, whinchat, common swift, blackcap
- Partial migrants: black redstart, blackbird
- Resident birds: tits
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Up to 700 kilometers of flight in one go
One can distinguish migratory birds into short-distance migrants and long-distance migrants. The latter partly travel as far as South Africa. “They like to cover 500 to 700 kilometers in one go without taking a break,” the ornithologist knows. This is achieved through a very special way of storing fat in the upper layers of the skin. “In this way, the animals can access the reserves faster than, for example, humans can.”
Long-distance migrants are drawn to the length of the day
The long-haul migrants do not tell the right time for departure by the temperature, but by the length of the days: Shorter days signal the animals that they have to be on their way. That is why long-distance migrants are faced with problems with regard to climate change, says Wichmann: “On the one hand, the feed situation in Africa is influenced, on the other hand, the supply of insects in our country is also changing. If insects have an earlier peak due to the warmer temperatures, migratory birds may be too late to return. “
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Temperature affects short-haul migrants
The short-haul migrants are adaptable. They do not look for the length of the day, but for the food available and therefore often only travel to the Mediterranean region. “There is enough food there even in winter,” says Wichmann, explaining the shorter distance. The ornithologist believes that short-distance migrants will stay with us sometime in winter due to climate change: “It remains to be seen whether the food supply will then be sufficient. A lot of habitat is destroyed by agriculture and forestry. ”The competition between the species could then increase, he says.
Winter trip could be absent in the future
Lisa Sernow, curator of the Salzburg Zoo, can imagine that short-haul migrants will cancel their winter trip at some point. “At the moment this is not the case and all birds that are supposed to fly actually fly away,” she explains.
Do not intervene in the birds that are left behind
Both experts advise against rescuing a lagging migratory bird on your own. “This can cause the animal to lose touch,” says Sernow. “The best thing to do is to watch the bird for a while. If he is not injured, there is a chance that he will join another group. ”Since birds do not die in flocks all year round, it does not matter which group they fly with.
Travel laziness could be an evolutionary step
Wichmann also sees the evolutionary aspect when individual animals lag behind: “You can’t do much there. If the migratory birds have errors in their ‘flight program’, nature sorts them out.
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Many types in Salzburg
There are a few migratory birds native to Salzburg. In addition to long- and short-distance migrants, there are also some partial migrants who, depending on the population and location, die only a few kilometers from their territory. This also includes those who live in the mountains over the summer and fly down to the valley in winter to protect themselves from the frost. Resident birds stay where they are all year round.