29 January 2013

Disappearing Birds

I did get one question answered at the bird talk at Manchester Museum: where do the birds go in late summer? Unfortunately in asking this I once again revealed by ignorance in all things natural. The answer is they don't go anywhere. They sort of melt into the background.

After raising broods of chicks birds undergo a moult of their feathers. This is done at this time of year because food is still plentiful and it provides them with fluffy new feathers to keep them warm during the winter.  According to Henry and subsequent Googling birds become vulnerable during the moult so they go quiet and creep about in the undergrowth to avoid getting eaten by predators (ie.That Cat). They don't then actually leave the garden but become inconspicuous.

Hmm, is my reaction to that.

Are birds that good at  hiding? Garden65 doesn't have that much undergrowth in which birds can sit hidden from my beady eye. If they are moving about at ground level rather than flying how do they get from one garden to the next? I'm sure they aren't squeezing through holes in fences like mice, but they do seem to disappear from the skies.

Garden birds in rural areas presumably do relocate to hedges or wooded areas, but where do urban birds go? The parks, I suppose, but then again the shrubs aren't rustling with the secret movements of an increased population of bedraggled brown birds.

I bow to the greater knowledge of experts and accept garden birds become quieter and stop singing in late summer because they are moulting. However, they are only now reappearing. I still have the impression that they leave, rather than skulk about in bushes, but how far can little blue tits or wrens go? Is it to the nearest park, or nature reserve, or many miles away into open countryside?