Animated Graph Shows Just How Far Birds Fly Every Winter

Forget the Starks—birds know better than any creature that “winter is coming,” which is why every fall they begin heading south to warmer climates when things get cold up north.

All we see of their journey from the ground are brief glimpses of flocks leaving us behind, and it’s not as easy to notice when they start returning in the spring. If we could watch their entire trip from high above the sky though, we would see just how massive that migration really is in both directions. As this visual guide from NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) shows, it’s an awesome movement of birds through the Western Hemisphere.

Shared by climate scientist Zack Labe, this “dataset shows the migration of 118 species of terrestrial bird populations,” with each dot representing the “the estimated location of the center of each species’ population for each day of the year.” It’s based on millions of observations, made between 1981 and 2010, from the eBird citizen-science database. As the cold air (blue) moves in, they move south, and when things warm up (yellow and red) they return north.

You can watch this mass migration over and over again, focusing on a different dot each time, and it’s amazing every time. But if you want to know specifically what kind of bird each dot represents you can find them all listed here, with a different version of this visual.

Now this spring when you look to the sky and see birds flying north you’ll know what they are and where they came from. Summer is coming after all.

Featured Image: Netflix

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