We all understand why birds of the Northern Hemisphere fly south in the fall. When the temperatures drop in Michigan, and the lakes are covered with ice, most birds have found a warmer place in the south. Michigan has many so-called “snowbirds” in the human population who leave us in November to go to Florida’s sunny shores. They come back in the spring to enjoy Michigan summers and because they have family here. The question is, why do birds fly north in spring? Couldn’t they save a lot of trouble by just staying in the south all year?
The answer to that question is food. The fact is that tropical areas simply don’t have enough insects to provide the protein that birds need to feed their chicks. When birds are in the south, they survive by eating berries, fruits, and nectar. None of those foods provide much protein. The time when birds return to the north coincides with the explosion of insects in the spring. They can enjoy less competition and longer days while dining on insects in the north.
The question remains as to how the birds know this? How do they know that they can benefit by traveling hundreds or thousands of miles in the spring? Why do the birds have the urge to fly north at the time that benefits them as well as the ecological systems they help to support? In other words, why do birds fly north in spring? The answer is that it’s built into their genes.
God’s view of Earth and the systems that make it work is far greater than ours. We are beginning to understand how many things, such as bird migration, must happen for the system of life to exist. It also speaks to us about how important it is that we take care of what God has given us.
— John N. Clayton © 2020
Reference: Smithsonian magazine, May 2020, page 88.