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Which birds migrate?

Pale-bellied brent goose in standing in water

Brent geese migrate to the UK for the winter

The most famous are long distance migrants, such as swallows, which breed in Europe and spend the winter in Africa. But you might be surprised to learn how many others are at it too. Even the blackbirds in your garden in January could well be winter visitors from Eastern Europe.

At least 4,000 species of bird are regular migrants. That’s about 40% of the world’s total. But some parts of the world have a higher proportion of migrants than others. 

In far northern regions, such as Canada or Scandinavia, most species migrate south to escape winter. In temperate regions, such as the UK, about half the species migrate – especially insect-eaters that can’t find enough food during winter. 

In tropical regions, such as the Amazon rainforest, fewer species migrate, since the weather and food supply there are more reliable all year round. Different species migrate in different ways. 

UK migrants fall into several groups. You can read about these different groups using the links on this page.