Birds of a Feather Are Suddenly Flocking Somewhere Else

Apr 8, 2022

Examples of Bird Vagrancy

Nothing catches the human eye more than a rare sighting of something. An animal outside its regular habitat is sure to draw looks. 

For bird watchers, seeing a bird thousands of miles from its native range is very exciting. These days, bird watchers are finding plenty of joy.

Records of bird “vagrancy” have soared. The term refers to birds that migrate outside their natural habitat range. Australia charted 329 vagrant birds over a 60-year period, from 1940 to 2000. But already, over just the first 17 years of the 2000s, that figure almost doubled to 617 cases. Robert Davis, a scientist in Australia, shared his findings with The New York Times.

Part of this trend can be credited to more people looking for vagrant birds. Experts also believe that climate change is another reason. Birds can sense harmful changes to their environment. They naturally seek out more livable habitats, scientists said.

Still, it’s impossible to know, for example, why a Steller’s Sea Eagle crossed an ocean from East Asia. Then, it was spotted in Alaska, Texas, and Nova Scotia. “You can’t predict when and where a vagrant will show up,” said one scientist. “They are, by nature, rare.”


Photo from gailhampshire courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Which of the following examples of vagrant birds in the infographic appears to have traveled the farthest distance? (Common Core RI.5.7; RI.6.7)
a. Steller’s Sea Eagle in 2022
b. Peregrine Falcon in 1999
c. Emperor Penguin in 2011
d. Nicobar Pigeon in 2017
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