Major Shorebird Migration

Oct 17, 2012

Discover nature this week as the migration season is in full swing for shorebirds.

If you read in the Missouri Department of Conservation’s Natural Event’s calendar that “major shorebird migration begins” on August 8, the “major” describes the numbers of birds migrating, not a characteristic of individual birds.

Because so many shorebirds are migrating now, this is the time to get out the binoculars and camera and observe the big move.

The arrival of shore birds in the spring and their disappearance at the end of the summer is one of the most familiar aspects of bird life in Missouri, as well as most of North America. Seasonal migration enables birds to avoid the physical stress of unfavorable climates and to take advantage of food supplies that are available in certain areas for a limited time each year.

Migration in North America follows a north and south path along four main routes or "flyways"; Pacific, Central, Mississippi, and Atlantic. Missouri falls in the Mississippi “flyway” path of migration.

Missouri’s shorebirds include the American Golden Plover, the Killdeer, the Lesser Yellowlegs, the Pectoral Sandpiper, and the Wilson’s snipe.

These birds undertake some of the most spectacular long-distance migrations of any North American birds. Some traverse more than 15,000 miles in their annual circuit. Many fly at altitudes exceeding 10,000 feet and approach 50 mile-per-hour cruising speeds.

To keep track of current natural events like when to get out the binoculars and get a good look at migrating shorebirds, you can get your own natural events calendar from the Missouri Department of Conservation.