Bird migration and a bird festival

Shorebirds in the estuary taking flight. (Photo by Ruth Ann Angus)

MORRO BAY Bird migration is one of the most amazing and intriguing activities in the natural world.

In North America birds typically migrate north in spring and south in fall. They travel along established routes called Flyways.

On the West Coast birds follow the Pacific Flyway. Many of these birds fly south from as far north as the Arctic to spend winter months on our shores. In spring they make the return trip.

Of the more than 900 species of birds in North America, over 200 species have been tallied on the Central Coast.

Shorebirds search for small crustaceans and marine worms in the soft tidal mud while pelicans and cormorants dive for fish in the sea. Large shorebirds such as godwits and curlews probe deeply into the sands and mudflats while smaller sandpipers feed at higher levels. In this way, many species subsist in the same habitat.

Loons dive for their catch and have been recorded at depths of 150 feet.

Air sacs under the skin help cushion the blow for the brown pelican as it dives for fish from up to 65 feet high. Terns also dive for their catch of the day after hovering 20 feet above the water.

A clean natural habitat that affords food, a resting place, and protection is critical for the survival of coastal birds. Freshwater creeks such as San Luis Obispo Creek and Chorro Creek provide clean drinking and bathing water for birds as well as feeding and roosting sites.

Some bird species on the Central Coast are endangered and others are threatened or are species of concern. Coastal birds face many hazards such as water pollution, chemical and oil spills, and trash. Many seabirds have their lives cut short from being entangled in fishing line, nets, or the plastic containers that hold soft drinks. A half-century ago birds such as the brown pelican, peregrine falcon, and others that consume primarily a fish diet, were nearly wiped out due to the softening of their eggshells from the effects of DDT. Since the banning of that pesticide, recovery has been steady.

You can see a variety of the more than 200 species of birds that frequent the Central Coast by attending the 23rd Annual Morro Bay Winter Bird Festival taking place Jan. 18-21, 2019. Online registration is now open as of Nov. 3 and events fill up quickly so waste no time. Go to www.morrobaybirdfestival.org and look over the events being offered and sign up! Online registration will close on Tuesday, Jan. 8. Don’t miss it! This is one of the country’s best bird festivals.

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