How Do Birds Know Where To Go?

6.13.13 - 2.01 p.m

This is a picture of a Brown-Headed Cowbird taken in front of the Student Center on WCC campus.

Every day I go about my life and quite honestly, I don’t pay close attention to what goes on around me. Seeing a bird fly across the sky is nothing new to me. A couple weeks ago at my school, we were assigned to study certain things around campus; I chose birds. Having this obligation to really observe the birds gave me more insight on the way they moved and the different colors they are. But out of all of the observing, something that came to my mind was how do birds know when and where to migrate?
Almost every day people see birds flying from place to place and probably don’t think very much about it. Normally humans tend to not think deeply about things that pass them by everyday. Why exactly do birds migrate from north to south? Well, most of us have learned in science class that birds leave when the temperatures drops and it begins to get too cold for them. But one of my main questions is how do they know where to go. Do they have an instinct inside of them? Or do they go along with some kind of routine? I went around and asked people to see if they knew or understood the way birds migrate; no one knew. Well, I finally looked it up. Some of the best/main answers I got was that:

  • “Some birds have magnetite above their nostrils. This helps them to use the Earth’s magnetic field to navigate.
  • Some birds navigate [using] landscape features, such as coastline, mountains or even motorways!
  • Some birds use the position of the sun and stars to navigate.”

Learning this was something new and interesting to me. I never knew that birds could even have the abilities to have or do these things. Quite honestly, this makes me appreciate nature more and the way it works. I think that birds are now going to be one of my favorite parts of nature to study. It’s so cool to keep learning more and more cool facts along the way.


“Why Don’t Migrating Birds Get Lost?” Why Don’t Migrating Birds Get Lost? Planet Science, 2011. Web. 18 June 2013.         <;.


3 thoughts on “How Do Birds Know Where To Go?

  1. You know I have always found it to be quite amazing on how many things we see as we go about are daily lives and never seem to really notice them. It surprises me on how many times I see a common plant, or in this case a bird flying over my head, and never seem to have the slightest interest to ask: what type of bird is that? where did it first come from? and how do they know when to fly south for the winter? It is almost like I’ve been blind for most of my life till recently. I guess sometimes you just need a push from others to get you to go out and actually direct your attention from the big things to the small things that you’ve never really noticed before. Great post, keep writing!

  2. Great post, Kate! The only thing I would change is make it longer!! I was really interested in learning more about birds and their daily lives. Excellent post.

  3. I enjoyed your inquiry about birds. When someone is ‘rudely’ called a ‘bird brain’, the implication is they are not very smart. After reading what birds use to navigate their way, birds seem pretty smart to me!
    Mrs. Grysen

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