BIRD’S EYE VIEW; Kent State Today; May 1, 2024

Kent State’s Department of Biological Sciences tracks migration patterns of birds and the problems affecting migration

Every spring and fall millions of birds migrate through Northeast Ohio on their way to or from their breeding grounds. With their song and bright colors, birds help brighten our campus after a long winter.  

Sangeet Lamichhaney

Kent State University’s Department of Biological Sciences distinctive programs study and track the migration of different birds. Sangeet Lamichhaney, Ph.D., assistant professor, said that Northeast Ohio is one of the best places for bird watching.

“Northeast Ohio is one of the most popular channels for the birds to migrate between South America and North America,” Lamichhaney said.  

Migration is a seasonal movement that is a form of adaptation. The budding plants, longer daylight hours and a change in food and water supply are just a few reasons birds migrate for spring. Birds also experience triggers from their genes, letting their brain and nervous system know that it is time to navigate to other areas of the world.

Genetics also plays a role in how birds navigate their routes. Parents pass down information to their offspring, combined with memorizing past migration routes. He said this is how birds know exactly where to go each season.  

However, migration doesn’t always go off without a hitch. Climate change can affect when they arrive or if they even come at all.  

Lamichhaney says his team has noticed some changes to the types of birds that have historically migrated through Northeast Ohio.

“We are not seeing the species that we were seeing five years ago, which means that they are not able to make it here or they are coming at a completely different time,” Lamichhaney said.

Along with climate change affecting migration patterns for birds, another challenge birds face during migration is window strikes, when birds crash into the windows of tall buildings because lights are left on at night.  

The Ohio Lights Out campaign is a collaboration of regional programs aimed at making urban landscapes safer for migratory birds.  

The program encourages businesses to keep their lights off at night to reduce the confusion of birds that have traveled thousands of miles.  

The university uses different technologies like DNA and GPS to track different species and the routes that they take while migrating. DNA can be used to study the genetics of the birds and where they came from. Small GPS tags can be put on the birds to get an overall picture of their migration routes.

Kent State partners often with other universities and organizations to save and track data from migratory birds.  

“It’s fascinating that a small bird, maybe 10 or eight grams, can migrate that far away, across the entire continent, crossing over Mexico and other places,” Lamichhaney said.

Birds traveling a long distance need refueling areas. A famous refueling area in Ohio is Lake Erie. Millions of birds stop there each season to recharge, creating a hub for bird watchers and scientists interested in sampling the birds.  

One of the most common birds that can be seen in the area during migration season in spring are warblers, which are small birds that come in a variety of different colors, their male species can be heard singing during their mating season in May.  

Other popular species of birds found in the Northeast Ohio area are sparrows, tanagers, orioles and waterfowl.

Want to know where to observe the beautiful birds that migrate here every year and see them up close and personal? Lamichhaney recommends visiting Plum Creek Park, Fred Fuller Park and the Cuyahoga Valley National Park to watch some of the different birds that migrate toward Northeast Ohio during the spring.  

Lamichhaney has spent many years studying different bird species all over the world. However, Finches are his favorite.

“The males sing, so every time you go to watch the birds you can hear them singing. It’s very magical,” Lamichhaney said.  

Learn more about the Department of Biological Sciences.



POSTED: Wednesday, May 1, 2024 08:55 AM
Updated: Monday, June 3, 2024 08:56 AM