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Seasonal Science: Raptor Migration

3 minutes

(Describer) In an animation, leaves fall.

[crickets chirping]

(female narrator) Fall is the time for migration. Along with ducks, geese, and the typical snowbird, there's another group of feathered friends preparing for their yearly trip south, but you won't see these in your typical flying V. Raptors migrate south during the winter months when their yummy morsels are scarce, but being a raptor, they do it slightly differently than most birds, and here's how.

Seasonal Science brings you "Raptor Migration."

(Describer) A raptor is a bird.

Step one: Find a flyway. So, forget the flying V. If you're a raptor, you want to find a flyway-- a route along a mountain or river or a coast that creates the right conditions for soaring. Updrafts or thermals let raptors coast along without using much energy. Each raptor species has a different timetable and destination, and many use different flyways. Step two: Watch the weather. Flapping is super costly physiologically, so the weather is key in aiding the journey. One to three days after a September cold front, when the conditions are right for updrafts and thermals, is the ideal time for most raptors to board the solar train and book it down south, especially if you're an obligate soaring migrant like the broad-winged hawk. If a raptor misses this small solar window, or there's a poorly timed hurricane or drought or heat wave, the migration could be thrown off, and an entire population can suffer. Step three: Make frenemies. Raptors are solitary and competitive normally, and most raptors, like eagles and harriers, stick to these solitary ways and take a leisurely pace south, hunting as they go. But during migration season, raptors like the broad-winged hawks forego all that competition nonsense and coalesce into large groups called "kettles"-- hundreds, sometimes thousands of broad-winged hawks on their way upwards and down south. Young birds find older mentors, and the more birds there are, the easier it is to find a thermal. And step four: Settle in for the duration. Once they've settled in their southern locations for the winter, they do what raptors do. They sit back, relax, shred small mammals, and prepare to do it all again when they head back north in the spring.

(Describer) Titles: Seasonal Science by Melissa Salpiera. Science Advisor: Keith L. Bildstein, Hawk Mountain Sanctuary. Accessibility provided by the US Department of Education.

Accessibility provided by the U.S. Department of Education.

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Why do some birds, like raptors, move from one region to another at certain times of the year? It is all about their interactions with the environment. The primary factor is scarcity in a food source. Another factor includes changes in the weather. This episode explains the seasonal events that affect the raptor’s migration and provides a platform to investigate the types of relationships found in their ecosystem. Part of the "Seasonal Science" series.

Media Details

Runtime: 3 minutes

Seasonal Science
Episode 1
3 minutes
Grade Level: 7 - 12
Seasonal Science
Episode 2
3 minutes
Grade Level: 7 - 12
Seasonal Science
Episode 3
4 minutes
Grade Level: 7 - 12
Seasonal Science
Episode 4
2 minutes
Grade Level: 7 - 12
Seasonal Science
Episode 5
3 minutes
Grade Level: 7 - 12
Seasonal Science
Episode 6
3 minutes
Grade Level: 7 - 12
Seasonal Science
Episode 7
3 minutes
Grade Level: 7 - 12