My friend Ken Keffer wrote a fascinating article for The Nature Conservancy’s blog, Cool Green Science. He focused on some of the myths that have surrounded bird migrations in years and centuries past, and some of them are really out there.
For instance, Aristotle may have been a wise man and a deep thinker, but he missed the mark when it came to explaining where redstarts go in the winter. He postulated that they transformed into robins, because while the redstarts disappeared at a certain time of the year, robins were still around.
And Ken pointed out that the 17th century scientist Charles Morton had an even more bizarre explanation for where some birds went in the colder months. He insisted that they migrated, but he was off on the destination of that migration by about 240,000 miles. He was convinced they left us and went to the moon.
And not even that long ago, it was believed that hummingbirds migrate by catching rides on the backs of geese. The truth is maybe even more surprising, though. Some species of hummingbirds migrate even farther than geese do, and these tiny birds cross the Gulf of Mexico in a nonstop flight.
Ken dispels a few other myths that are still with us, too. He notes that many people still believe that leaving your bird feeders out will cause birds to stay put, rather than migrate. The thought is that available food will make them stay where that food is, but the ingrained instinct to migrate is more powerful than a feeder full of seeds. Don’t worry about pulling your feeders in the fall – the birds will migrate when it’s time to go.
That Cool Green Science blog often has really interesting topics about the natural world. Check it out next time you can’t get out to explore the natural world first-hand.