While we humans are getting our excitement watching the NCAA March Madness basketball tournament, the animal world is gearing up for one of the most impressive natural phenomena in the world – migration! Thousands of species of birds around the world travel vast distances each year to get the most out of their habitat.
In the spring, birds like ducks, geese, shorebirds, and songbirds are heading from the warmer areas where they’ve spent the winter in comfort to their more northerly breeding grounds. Why travel north to breed? The farther north you go, the shorter the summers are. This means that all of the insects have to breed in a very short amount of time while it’s warm – creating a huge food resource just in time to feed baby birds. By breeding in the north (and some species breed as far north as the Arctic Circle!) birds make sure that they have lots of food available for their chicks.
It’s no easy feat to travel thousands of miles each year, especially when you need to be in top shape to breed at the end of your journey. Migrating shorebirds consume nearly 20% of their bodyweight each day! This is why it’s so important for migrating birds to have a network of feeding and rest stops along their migration routes. Cheyenne Bottoms and Quivira NWR provide those stops for hundreds of species of migrating birds, from warblers to waterfowl.
Because so many species are on the move at once, migration season is a wonderful time to start keeping an eye out for birds traveling through our area. Cheyenne Bottoms during peak migration season hosts almost 600,000 shorebirds alone – when you add in the ducks, geese, and other water loving birds, the Bottoms are a bird’s paradise in spring! It’s not just water loving birds that migrate through our area either, songbirds and birds of prey are also on the move.
You might think, “Well, that’s great for the birds, but I’m not really a big nature person.” Migrating birds are a big deal for the state and local economies! Annually, an average of more than 60,000 visitors come to the Cheyenne Bottoms for the purpose of hunting, bird watching, environmental study, fishing, and trapping. Each of those visitors is staying at a local hotel, eating at local restaurants, and shopping at local stores. According to a study done in 1987, the economic impact of the Cheyenne Bottoms on the State’s economy is greater than $2.8 million annually. The impact on Barton County alone is in excess of $1.8 million.
So this spring, watch and listen for the many birds migrating through Barton County. You’ll hear geese and Sandhill Cranes flying overhead, see Eastern Kingbirds hanging out on the fence in your backyard, and spot raptors like Turkey Vultures and Mississippi Kites circling the skies. Take a drive out to Cheyenne Bottoms to watch thousands of ducks and geese cover the water. If you’ve got questions about where the best birds are hanging out at the Bottoms, call the KWEC at 1-877-243-9268 and we’ll point you in the right direction. Most of all, enjoy spring!