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Male redstart perched on a branch

Small migratory beauties

By José Antonio Sánchez Iglesias

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 At this time of year, for a few weeks, we can enjoy in our forests and marshes the presence of a large number of very graceful and delicate and often very bright colored little birds, which visit us in their annual migration.
They spend the spring in northern Europe, where they breed, but when they feel the arrival of the cold and notice the decrease in the number of insects that feed on, they are forced to seek other areas in the world more favorable to their needs. And then they embark on a long journey that will take them to different areas of sub-Saharan and tropical Africa, where they find enough food again during the winter.


Collalba gris macho posada en un poste de hormigón 
They don’t reach the 15g of weight and don’t live more than a few years but face a several or many thousand kilometres journey. The normally travel during the night and feed in the day, to avoid predators. Wheatears breeding in Alaska will travel for as long as 15,000 km across Asia to reach their wintering grounds in subsaharan Africa. They spend around 3 months each way and spend about the same time at each location. Those breeding in Canada will travel across the Atlantic Ocean to get to Africa; they will fatten massively, approaching double their normal body weight prior to their ocean crossings. The route information is fixed genetically so if you move an egg from Alaska to Canada, the resultant offspring will increase its weight in the same way and travel in the wrong direction westward across North America. (Source:


Wheater migratory routes



Climate change, pollution, uncontrolled hunting and environmental transformations are reducing the populations of these small birds in an alarming way, so we’d better enjoy them while we can. I look admiringly at these brave little creatures that spend most of their lifetime on the move, exposed to multiple dangers and going through all kind of difficulties to fulfill their life’s meaning.


Perhaps by being aware of their fleeting step in our lives each year and the selfless offer of beauty they give us with each one of their trips, we will be able to put a grain of sand to help them to keep doing it. Here we show you some of the most common ones these days, you just have to open your eyes, they are out there wishing you to look at them.

About José Antonio Sánchez Iglesias

José Antonio Sánchez se licenció en Biología por la Universidad de Sevilla en 1985. Más tarde, durante varios años, se dedicó a organizar y guiar rutas de senderismo y naturaleza ...