The Birds Fly South.

I was just sitting here wondering about the birds and the butterflies ( Ah, you though I was going to say bees). Nope, it was birds and butterflies. Now most of us know that many species of  bird fly south for the winter. Or, if you happen to live in Australia or New Zealand, our feather friends head north.  As mentioned, not all birds do this, just a few types who can’t stand the cold weather – pussies! So, the birds fly thousands of miles – from one continent to another, from one archipelago to another, and so on. These birds of a feather, do in fact, stick together as they fly across the planet. In the past, they have carried disease with them – remember bird flu, passed on to the poor dumb-assed pigs. Anyway, these birds are flying untold distances over miles and miles of  land and ocean. I figure a migrating bird from the US that heads down to Australia annually, is at some point, flying over the Pacific Ocean and we all know that’s one big mother of an ocean. So, with all this flapping, doesn’t the bird get thirsty and need water? Sure he or it, can take a break from flapping and glide on the prevailing winds, but water – doesn’t it need a drink? Now, it’s not like the bird can nose-dive to the sea and grab a beak full of sea water and I haven’t noticed birds having humps like camels, so we can rule out a “water tank”. I’m fairly sure birds, like humans, can’t drink salt water, so we can also rule out the aforementioned, nosing-diving. Intrigued? No? Oh well, I am. Birds flying thousands of miles and not needing a glass of water, let alone a worm, is incredible. That brings me to my next question – food. Humans can’t travel thousands of miles on an empty stomach, that’s why airlines give us dinner on a long flight. I suppose it is possible for the bird to nose-dive to the sea and grab a fish, but that’s got to be difficult – unless it’s a pelican. Pelican’s are actually quite lucky, they get to land on the surface of the rolling ocean and eat their “dinner” in relative comfort. The poor swallow has to keep flapping its wings until is sees dry land.

So, my friends. Just how does a bird survive the long trips across the world without water or food?

Let me now segue into the world of the butterfly. There are, of course, various kinds of butterfly. There are the white ones, that eat your cabbages in the vegetable garden every summer. There are the black ones, that follow the white ones and I figured that the white are female and black male. Then there are the big colorful butterflies, that we see in our gardens on occasion. These butterflies just seem to be passing through and are stopping off for a chat and a bit of cabbage with a white butterfly. Many species of butterfly also embark on a mammoth trip of thousands of miles from one country to another –  reason, unknown. Perhaps, like the birds, they too hate the cold weather. I read that some types of Mexican butterflies, actually make their way up to the northern states of the US. It is rumored that the sombrero these particular butterflies wear alerted the scientists to where they came from. Again, these globe trotting butterflies, seem not to need water or food – granted they don’t cross oceans, but food and water? All of God’s creatures need the basics to survive, don’t they? When Moses led the Jewish slaves out of Egypt and forty-thousand people wandered in the desert for about thirty years, all because Moses  forgot the map, they were fed with bread and fish. (I wonder where the fish came from – Moses and Co were in a desert).

Well, people, I hope these question can be answered – I’m thinking of buying a swallow and a couple of Mexican butterflies.


4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Betty Chatterjee
    Feb 24, 2010 @ 08:45:14

    You have posed a very important question; they must get very hungry and thirsty. Your blog made me think of something else: those migratory birds must get very tired flapping their wings across the ocean, how do they manage the journey without taking a nap?


  2. James Hayton
    Feb 24, 2010 @ 16:26:28

    Answer from Marianne Taylor

    Many birds migrate via the shortest sea crossings possible, e.g. in western Europe migrants tend take the long way round to cross to Africa via the very short hop at Gibraltar. They make frequent refuelling stops en route, so they never go more than a day or two without food or water.

    Others do undertake very long non-stop sea crossings without food or wate. Bar-tailed Godwits (a species of wading bird) travel up to about 18,000 miles in a single mammoth flight, taking nine days (and yes, they flap their wings all the way – they are not built for gliding!). Therefore they need to fuel up – a lot – before they set off, so they eat and eat and eat. By migration time up to 55% of their bodyweight is composed of fat, while certain internal organs shrink temporarily so the bird maintains a flyable weight. They are 50% lighter by the time they reach their destinations. These birds, like many other animals, don’t need to drink as frequently as we do.

    Migrating butterflies can feed from flowers on the way, so no worries there – they can also last a long while without food if they have to. Monarchs, the species you’re thinking of that goes between Mexico and the USA, migrate long distances over the course of a year, but they produce new generations on the way which take over the journey while the original butterflies die. So it’s more like a relay race than a marathon. Every year a few lost Monarchs show up in the UK, having crossed the Atlantic. However, they couldn’t manage this feat without a lot of luck and a lot of help from the prevailing winds.


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  4. Shaun
    Sep 12, 2011 @ 00:15:01

    Swallow’s and swifts can actually sleep during flight.
    As for drinking could it be possible for birds to wet their beaks by flying through clouds?


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