Even though autumn is technically just starting, the fall wildlife migration is already underway across North America.
Migration offers an excellent opportunity to get outside and see what wildlife is passing through your area. Here are some tips from the National Wildlife Federation.
The change of seasons is an important influence on animal behavior. Whether it's the hot season turning cold or the dry season turning wet, wildlife has to adapt to survive. Some animals fatten up and tough it out until spring. Others hibernate or go dormant to survive lean times. Another common strategy is migration.
Migratory birds head south in the fall. Some species migrate as far as the tropics, where they will stay until next spring. These "neotropical migrants" include songbirds, waterfowl, raptors and even hummingbirds. Some birds spend their summers in the far north and fly south in the fall to the mid-Atlantic, southwest or southern states for the winter.
There are four distinct migratory flyways in North America used by migrating birds Here are a few migratory birds that you might see this fall in your region.
Pacific Flyway: lazuli bunting, violet-green swallow, rufous hummingbird, western tanager, western wood pewee, Bullock's oriole, warbling vireo, yellow-headed blackbird, black-throated gray warbler, western kingbird, shearwater, red-necked phalarope, red-throated loon, Swainson's hawk
Central Flyway: northern parula, black-and-white warbler, rough-legged hawk, bobolink, scarlet tanager, Artic peregrine falcon, pintail duck, orchard oriole, yellow-breasted chat, olive-sided flycatcher, black-headed grosbeak, indigo bunting, whooping crane
Mississippi Flyway: white-fronted goose, nighthawk, blackpoll warbler, American widgeon, gadwall, mallard, black duck, blue-winged teal, least bittern, great egret, sandhill crane, prothonotary warbler, summer tanager, eastern kingbird, yellow-billed cuckoo
Atlantic Flyway: ruby-throated hummingbird, tundra swan, American redstart, ovenbird, broad-winged hawk, dark-eyed junco, northern waterthrush, northern gannet, great blue heron, Canada goose, horned grebe, cerulean warbler, fox sparrow, lark bunting, ruby-crowned kinglet, winter wren
Some North American mammals migrate too. Caribou and pronghorn shift their ranges in the fall to ensure access to food throughout the winter months. Mexican free-tailed bats spend the summer and give birth in the U.S., including the massive population that lives under the Congress Avenue Bridge in Austin, TX. When the weather turns colder in October, though, the bats migrate back to Mexico.
In the fall, gray whales make their way south from the Artic all the way down to Baja California, where they can give birth to their calves in the warm water away from predatory killer whales.
Even insects such as monarch butterflies and green darner dragonflies travel great distances to survive the oncoming winter. All of the monarchs east of the Rockies make their way down to Mexico, where they roost in the millions at a dozen or so spots high in the mountains. Western monarchs are a little more scattered, roosting in pine and eucalyptus trees throughout California.
No one is quite sure where migratory dragonflies go in the fall, but they've been observed flying south in large numbers to escape the deadly winter cold of the northern winter.
Be Out There and Watch Wildlife
One of the greatest things about fall migration is that it offers some pretty awesome wildlife watching opportunities. Get outside this fall and see what migratory species you can spot. You can report sightings on National Wildlife Federation's Wildlife Watch website, on Twitter or even on your iPhone.
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