Bird Word: Nomadic

  • Nomadic: some species are able to move erratically between different regions in response to drought, rainfall or lack of food sources. For example, honeyeaters may move from their normal habitat to another area where there is an abundance of flowering trees.

Territorial birds

Wild birds can be very territorial, staying in the one location all their lives. Australian Magpies are like this. I could take you on a ten minute walk around our property and point out the boundaries of the territory “our” magpies inhabit. This becomes very evident in late winter early spring, just when they are beginning to nest. They defend their territory very willingly indeed. They also very rarely, if ever, stray from that territory.

Birds with larger territories

Other species are not as sedentary. They will move over much larger areas that could only be loosely termed their territory. Species like the Grey Currawong and White Winged Choughs are like that here in the Murray Bridge area of South Australia. Their beat can cover several kilometres in any direction.

Nomadic birds

Still other species can be highly nomadic. They respond quickly to changed environmental conditions. If one part of a forest or scrub is lacking flowering trees and other plants, birds like honeyeaters and lorikeets quickly move to an area where there is a more abundant or reliable food source.

Water birds in Australia will respond to drought conditions by leaving a dry area and moving to an area where there is still water. They can also respond very quickly to heavy rain and flooding. When the inland salt lakes fill in outback Australia, tens of thousands of water birds flock to these areas to breed, feed and live until the water dries up. They will then disperse to other areas where there is water. The Australian Pelican, for example, has been known to fly thousands of kilometres in search of water, sometimes at an altitude of several thousands of metres.


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