All about birds

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By Special to the Monitor

For countless centuries the continent has experienced an extraordinary phenomenon. It happens throughout natural places.

It happens in national parks. It happens in back yards. And it happens every year. A group of vertebrates with a direct lineage back to the dinosaurs play out this event.

The vertebrates are birds and the phenomenon is called migration.

Every autumn hundreds of thousands of birds of all shapes and sizes migrate toward the south in a struggle for survival and a search for places with abundant food. Because birds don’t know political borders, these feathered travelers traverse prairies, forests, deserts, coastlines, and open water to reach other countries, traveling astonishing distances to find a place to spend the winter.

These birds constitute a most important part of many ecosystems, providing unpaid services that benefit humanity, such as the transport of seeds, the control of insect populations and pollination of plants.

Because of the details of their biology, the health of the planet and its ecosystems is directly reflected in the health of bird populations.

Therefore the study and conservation of birds gives people an opportunity to understand this changing world.