They travel mainly to reach warmer regions where they fulfill key parts of their life cycles. Many of them are threatened.
Of the 10,000 bird species in the world, approximately 1,800 are known to make long-distance migrations. These trips, full of dangers, are mainly motivated by reaching warmer regions where they fulfill fundamental parts of their life cycles. Some shorebirds, for example, fly about 30,000 km each year.
More than 10% of the bird species that can be seen in Argentina carry out some type of migration. The reddish beach is one of the most impressive examples: it arrives every spring from the Arctic to the country, resting on the coasts until reaching Tierra del Fuego. At the beginning of autumn, it begins its return to the northern hemisphere, where it reproduces.
The common phalarope performs a similar movement: it reproduces in the wetlands of Canada and the United States and avoids the cold seasons of those latitudes, reaching the lagoons of Argentina in congregations of hundreds of thousands of individuals.
There are species that make shorter but no less challenging trips: the Macá Tobiano, an endemic bird of Patagonia, leaves the inhospitable coasts of the Santa Cruz River estuary to spend each summer in the lagoons of the Lake Buenos Aires plateau, where it establishes its reproductive colonies. When the cold wind of Santa Cruz’s autumn begins to whip the lagoons, the macáes, with their already strong and developed chicks, return to the estuary.
Argentina’s grasslands are also witnesses of migrations. The smallest and most colorful cappuccinos arrive in the pastures of the coast in spring, because they find at that time and latitude the ideal conditions to reproduce and raise their chicks. Likewise, various species of swallows, earwigs and even nocturnal birds, such as the scissor-walker, arrive at these grasslands.
The lobster harrier also visits grasslands in early spring. They come in large flocks to rest and feed, and escape our fall to return to the grasslands of North America, where it breeds. And we can not fail to mention the red cauquén, which lives in Argentine and Chilean Patagonia and travels to the south of the province of Buenos Aires to spend the winter, in search of food and less cold climates.
Many of these species are threatened. The reddish sandpiper, like many shorebirds, faces unplanned shoreline use. Vehicles, dogs, waste and the advance of some exotic species make it increasingly difficult for these birds to find on the coasts the feeding and resting places that are essential for them to complete their life cycle.
The red-headed goose is a critically endangered species, and its main threat is poaching. The Tobiano Macá, also critically endangered, is threatened by climate change and the introduction of invasive alien species. The lobster harriers today have rebounded remarkably, but suffered a sharp decline just a few decades ago due to the use of pesticides. And Capuchins, like many grassland-dependent species, suffer the irreversible threat of habitat loss, coupled with illegal wildlife trafficking.
Migratory birds inspire strength in us, connect cultures, and teach us that challenges are met by advancing as a group. Today there are research and conservation initiatives for migratory birds that bring together organisms from different countries and continents. Working together, leaving borders aside, is the key to living in a healthy and biodiverse world.
We invite you to learn about migratory birds and the importance of becoming aware as citizens about the threats that these birds and their natural environments have: to continue receiving them, protecting them and enjoying them every season.