Always Coming Home

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Published on: Jul. 15, 2013

Always Coming Home

To thrive, migratory birds must find favorable habitat throughout the year, throughout the Americas.

By Brett Dufur

High up in the rolling, mist-covered mountains of Honduras, a small flash of metallic green darts through the forest. The ruby-throated hummingbird is returning home.

Where is “home” to a migratory bird that racks up thousands of miles in its annual trek? In a way, hummingbirds are always coming home — to beneficial habitat throughout the Americas — seeking warm weather, food, and shelter in North America, and farther south into Central and South America.

Hummingbirds bring joy to birdwatchers throughout the Americas. Each of us eagerly awaits the diminutive birds’ yearly return to our flowers and bird feeders — whether in Mis­souri or in the heart of Honduras.

By April, the hummingbirds outside kitchen windows in Honduras have completed the 1,800-mile migration to Missouri and other Midwestern states. They will spend the spring and summer months feeding on sap, insects, nectar, and at the feeder outside your own kitchen window.

By mid-August, the southward migration of the ruby-throated hummingbird is underway, and by early October most will have left Mis­souri. Many birds we see all summer long also are heading south as fall approaches. The peak of fall warbler migration begins in mid-August and continues through mid-September. And bird migration, in general, is in full swing into September.

Where exactly do our birds go eight months of the year? And who is working to ensure our birds return? Thankfully, a large network of conservationists working throughout the Americas is fighting to keep the future bright for migratory birds.

Keeping Common Birds Common

For about 60 species of Missouri’s migratory birds racing against winter in the middle of a 3,000-mile migration, finding enough food and quality habitat in many different states and countries throughout the Americas becomes a matter of life and death. Many of North Amer­ica’s songbirds, raptors, and ducks spend eight months in places like Honduras, Ecuador, and Argentina. Because our birds spend so much of

their time elsewhere, no conservation measure at home can be effective without addressing habitat conservation in those other countries.

Improving bird habitat throughout migra­tory flyways has never been more important. Many migratory birds have experienced popu­lation declines. In many instances, present-day bird populations are now less than half of their populations 50 years ago, with some bird groups showing declines as high as

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