Trivia

Hard

The Bird With The Shortest Migration Route Is The?

Downy Woodpecker
Dusky Grouse
White Tern
Flamingo
A female Dusky Grouse near a national park trail in New Mexico.
S. King (U.S. N.P.S.)/Wikimedia

Answer: Dusky Grouse

When you think about migration, you probably think about birds flying south for the winter to avoid the cold or the epic trans-oceanic migrations some bird species undertake. Migration calls to mind herculean efforts that pit animals against the ravages of nature and make for fascinating documentaries tracking them across the globe, right? While many species have such epic migratory patterns, some species migrate significantly shorter distances.

In fact, among migratory birds, the bird with the shortest known migration pattern is the dusky grouse (its very close relative the sooty grouse follows the same migration pattern). These two species of grouse live in inland regions of the Western United States and Canada. During the warmer portion of the year (when they are breeding and raising their young), they live in lowland areas at the base of mountains. When winter comes, the birds engage in a type of migration that is curious in two ways.

First, they (unlike nearly every other bird species) migrate to colder areas by traveling from the grasslands and forests at the base of the mountains up to the higher elevation coniferous forests on the mountain slopes. Second, this migration is typically very short. While the grouses may take flight, the majority of them simply walk right up the mountain slopes only a few hundred yards or so, and settle in for the winter. There’s a good chance that you walked further during your last round of grocery shopping than the grouses walked to migrate for the winter.

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