For us, winter is great. We get to wrap up warm, go for long walks through frosty fields and drink yummy hot chocolate with marshmallows. But a little bird told me that during the winter, they have to fly away and find a warmer place to live. Unlike people, birds can’t go to the supermarket to buy food, light toasty fires or wear fluffy coats and socks. So, off they go on their adventure through the clouds – this process is known as migration.


As the seasons change, birds and other animals move from one place to another – this is known as migration. Birds migrate for a number of different reasons, the main one being to find a good food supply to help them survive.  In autumn when temperatures drop, leaves fall off the trees and there are fewer insects. To survive, when their food supply starts to run low, insect-eating birds must move on.

During the winter, many birds migrate south to a brighter and warmer location. The longer days make it easier for the birds to find shelter and food. Then in spring, the birds return to their second home in the north. Each species of bird migrates differently and some don’t migrate at all. The pretty robin red breast likes to stick around during winter and sing in the snow!


Nope, birds are really smart. They can make it from one side of the world to another without using a mobile phone or a map. So how do they do it? Scientists believe that birds use a number of different methods to find their location. They use the sun to tell the time, their sense of smell for navigation and look out for landmarks in the distance, like coastlines and mountains. The coolest method of all is the magnetic mineral that birds have in their brain. It acts like a built in compass and always points the birds in the direction of north.


Because it’s too hard to fly in a Q? Joke. Scientists say that flying in a ‘V’ shape helps save energy during flight. One bird flying in front of the next creates an air flow which helps the birds along by reducing the wind resistance. They also fly in a ‘V’ to keep track of all the birds in the flock so no one gets left behind. This way of flying is now used by fighter pilots all over the world, pretty cool right?   


Migration is very dangerous and many birds don’t make it back to their starting point. Sadly, one of the main causes is totally out of our control – the weather. When harsh weather strikes out of nowhere, birds find it hard to fly, find food and take shelter. Now for the biggest danger. No, it’s not cats – it’s windows. Every year, millions of birds fly into them and get lost from their flock. When our windows are totally clean and transparent, birds can’t see them. You can help make windows visible by placing colourful stickers, tape or screens on the outside of them. It’s as simple as that.


As lots of birds flee Ireland for the winter, many others start to arrive. Every autumn, over 25,000 brent geese leave their home in Arctic Canada and travel 2,000 miles to Strangford Lough. Unlike other birds in the area, geese are more than happy to eat the eelgrass and algae that grows on the edge of the Lough. Brent geese are easy to identify as they have a brown body, black head and a little white speckle on the side of their neck. Watch out for them.


Visit National Trust’s places and spaces this winter to help them prepare nature for winter. Take part in Big Missions to find food for birds, make bark rubbings and search for red squirrels. Find lots more adventures and events this winter at National Trust Northern Ireland.

Ellen Greene

Author: Ellen Greene

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *