Common cuckoos fly to Great Britain for the summer.

Common cuckoos fly to Great Britain for the summer.

Barnacle geese head to Europe for the winter. (Bengt Nyman/CC BY-SA 4.0)

Barnacle geese head to Europe for the winter. (Bengt Nyman/CC BY-SA 4.0)

Red-necked phalaropes fly from Scotland to Peru each year.

Red-necked phalaropes fly from Scotland to Peru each year.

Great snipes can fly for thousands of miles at a time.

Great snipes can fly for thousands of miles at a time.

Arctic terns make very long migrations—about 22,000 miles long.

Arctic terns make very long migrations—about 22,000 miles long.

To the Moon and Back . . . Twice!

Posted: March 1, 2022

Lie on the grass and look at the sky. See any birds on the move?

Every year, millions of birds criss-cross the planet. They’re looking for food, warmth, and mates. How much do you know about their remarkable journeys?

 

Common cuckoos spend October to March in warm spots such as Portugal, Senegal, and the Congo Basin. In summer, they wing their way home to Great Britain. Great Britain teems with flying insects in warm weather. Cuckoos can feed themselves and their babies.

Barnacle geese call the Arctic home. In spring and summer, this chilly place has full days of sunlight and plenty of goose food—grass. But when cold weather comes, these geese head south to Europe. Europe is too cold for common cuckoos. Maybe the barnacle geese are honking, “Hey! It’s better than the Arctic!”

Red-necked phalaropes weigh a little more than a small bag of chips. Instead of going north to south, they fly west from Scotland to Peru and back each year. One red-necked phalarope started in the Shetland Isles. It flew west across the Atlantic Ocean, stopping over at the border between the United States and Canada. The bird then flew down the U.S. east coast. It crossed over land to Mexico’s Pacific coast. From there, it continued south until it reached the coast of Peru. What a marathon!

Great snipes may not look like much. These brown wading birds feed at the edges of lakes and in soft mud. But when it’s time to migrate, they can fly nonstop for almost 4,000 miles from Sweden to Africa. And they fly as fast as your car drives!

Pied flycatchers often fly at night. How do we know? People have recorded their in-flight calls as they pass over during hours of darkness. These birds navigate using the stars.

Arctic terns win the prize for distance. They make the longest migration of any bird. They breed in the very north of Europe and Asia during summer. Then they travel all the way to the Antarctic Ocean to spend another summer: this time in the southern hemisphere. That’s a distance of about 22,000 miles. The oldest known Arctic tern survived for 31 years. It probably traveled a lot of miles during its lifetime—more than to the Moon and back twice!

 

Why? God cares for birds by giving them bodies suited to flying far, wide, and high. He cares even more for His children.