A change in seasons often equals one thing in the natural world – time to move. Many animals come and go with the seasons. In commemoration of the coming of spring, The Nature Conservancy is releasing the “Top 5 Must-See Migrations in Michigan.”
The Nature Conservancy is releasing similar lists in states across the country.
Unlike other migratory fish, suckers swim up streams both large and small. Despite their humble name, suckers are anything but ordinary. They are the third-most diverse family of freshwater fish in North America, growing anywhere from 14 inches to two feet long and living as long as 25 to 30 years. Carnivores—not mudsuckers, as their name might suggest—suckers are bottom-dwelling fish whose diet ranges from shellfish to snails. Massive sucker runs enhance the health of both stream ecosystems and game fish. The massive migration is a phenomenon rivaled only by more famous migratory wonders like the wildebeest of the Serengeti or the salmon of the Northwest Coast.
|2. Songbirds |
Listen for the persistent mating calls and look for the stunning features of migratory songbirds during this time of year. Kirtland’s warblers, the small, yellow-bellied birds that spend their summers in Michigan and their winters in the Bahamas, nearly became extinct in the 1970s. Kirtland’s warblers rely on teams of dedicated conservationists who have not only compiled invaluable data on the tiny songbirds, but have put into action a plan that has exponentially increased the birds’ population.
The Great Lakes population of piping plovers is critically endangered. The species joined the federal Endangered Species List in 1986 when the population plummeted to only 18 pairs. Populations have since significantly increased, but the species remains in serious danger. The main threat to the bird is habitat loss as coastal beaches are increasingly developed for residential, commercial and industrial uses.
The term waterfowl refers to ducks, swans and geese, birds that typically spend their non-flying time on the water. Humans have long depended on waterfowl for food and for feathers. Many dabbling ducks can be spotted at the Erie Marsh Preserve as they rest and refuel on their way to northern breeding grounds for the summer. This marsh supports waterfowl that would otherwise be hard-pressed to find suitable habitat.
Birds of prey — also known as raptors — are distinguished by their sharp bills and talons. They have keen eyesight that they use to spot prey from great distances. The family includes eagles, hawks, falcons and owls. A spectacular migratory bird movement of raptors occurs along rocky and wonderful Great Lakes shoreline. Traveling the Great Lakes Flyway, thousands of raptors gather each spring and fall on the Keweenaw’s shores, among them bald eagle and peregrine falcon.
April 15, 2013