Sep 192013
Migrating birds

Migrating birds in formation. Photo by Vlado/

Growing up as a young girl in the south, I was awestruck by nature. One phenomenon that caught my attention was the formation of the migratory birds when flying in the sky. I was mesmerized by the naturally perfect “V” shape of the birds in flight. The “V” shape of the birds in flight are called a ‘skein.’

The skein flew in sync at just the right speed making a spectacular show for anyone who happened to look up to the sky.

The two main theories on why skeins fly in a “V” shape are simple and supported by studies. The formation conserves the birds’ energy and to aid in communication with each other.

Now that I’m older, I’ve noticed a huge difference in the bird’s formation. They aren’t in sync like they used to be when I was younger. At least one bird, if not more are out of line, flying haphazardly. I can’t remember the last time I saw a perfect “V” formation. This alteration has me concerned, especially now that songbirds are showing signs of contaminated environmental struggles, as well.

Researchers recently found that songbirds are singing out of tune. The songbirds appear to be affected by non-lethal contaminants in the sediments of the Hudson River in New York State. The songbirds are feeding the PCB-contaminated insects to their young which is suspected of altering the song production, thus interfering with the birds’ communication.

Contaminants may cause birds to sing a different tune

Was the altered “V” formation just the beginning of noticeable, but subtle changes? Is our society looking the other way in favor of assumed progress? Do we ignore the damage from environmental contaminants on a macro level?

The circle of life comes to mind. We are contaminating our environment, as evident from the songbirds.

When was the last time you watched birds in flight?