Why do Some Birds Migrate and Some Do Not?


Migration, while it keeps the sport of birding interesting and ever-changing, also brings about a lot of questions. This is one of the more common questions asked by bird watchers and other curious observers.

The answer isn’t as complicated as you might think!

Why some birds DO migrate

The main reason why some birds migrate is because of food.

Warblers are a fantastic example of why. These small little songsters are insect-eaters. Here in the U.S. the insects disappear when Winter arrives.

If there are no insects in the area, the Warblers cannot live there, so they migrate. Warblers that we see in the U.S. migrate down to Central and South America for the Winter because there are more insects present during the freezing months in the United States.

In order to stay in an insect-abundant area, Warblers fly back North in the Spring. Moving in sequence with the bushes and trees which regaining their leaves, the Warblers don’t run out of food.

Why some birds DON’T migrate

Other birds like this Barn Owl pictured above do not migrate. Their food source consists mainly of rodents: mice, moles, occasionally bigger prey like squirrels, pigeons, and rabbits.

If Barn Owls were insect eaters (how weird would that be!) they would have to migrate just like Warblers. Since their prey is non-migratory, Owls are non-migratory.

This is one reason to study animals other than birds! If you know the bird’s prey, it can help you to find specific species of birds.

Barn Owls have a very specific habitat and diet. They love roosting in Barns that have a big enough opening for them to get through that doesn’t close. Barns are typically near fields which is where the Owls hunt for rodents.

Knowing the bird’s prey helps you know the bird!

I hope you enjoyed this post, make sure and look for other ones like it in the future. Happy birding!

- John Mark

About John Mark Simmons
John Mark Simmons has stayed in Athens, Georgia his whole life, and frequently birds the hotspots in the area. While local birding makes up the majority of his birding time, he has birded many areas of the state and has chased various rare birds. Although birding is his favorite hobby, John Mark has participated in many sports, his primary one being a competitive swimmer.

One thought on “Why do Some Birds Migrate and Some Do Not?

  1. Very informative, thanks. But is it only food? Aren’t there other factors?

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