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Monarch Marathon: Fall Butterfly Migration in Piedmont Park

Perhaps the most iconic migratory insect is the Monarch Butterfly. These majestic butterflies are easily identified by their bright orange wings with delicate black line details and white dots around the border. What makes these butterflies so iconic is their migration, totaling nearly 3,000 miles for some butterflies.

Photo Credit: Grace Manning

Monarchs lay their eggs on Milkweed plants, soon to be food for the caterpillars. Those hungry caterpillars emerge and begin their journey to becoming a butterfly. Once they have completed their metamorphosis, they will either begin breeding, or depending on the timing, begin migrating. When the days get shorter and the weather a bit colder, adult Monarchs migrate from the United States and Canada south, to California and Mexico. It is there they will wait out the winter on the oyamel fir trees. When the days grow longer, the Monarchs fly back up north in search of their host plant, Milkweed, once again to breed. 

Photo Credit: Grace Manning

In Georgia we are lucky enough to be on the path. Come September these butterflies will head south, flying at about treetop height along their journey. One of the threats facing Monarchs today is the loss of their breeding plant, Milkweed. This plant plays a critical role in Monarch survival as the only place they will lay their eggs, and the only food for caterpillars. Looking to ensure a monarch sighting this fall? Plant milkweed in your yard, or in large planters on your patio.

Author: Dana Buskovitz, Piedmont Park Conservancy Education Coordinator

Want to learn more about migration? Read part one of our migration blog series about birds you can spot in the Park during the fall.

duck swimming in lake clara meer in piedmont park

Feathered Friends: Fall Bird Migration in Piedmont Park

While fall migration through Georgia may not be as spectacular as springtime migration, it is still a sight to behold. Starting as early as August, many birds make their way south in preparation for the winter season. During migration, these birds use “stopover habitats” as resting places on their long journey. Stopover habitats are places to eat, sleep, and recharge, like a hotel room on a long drive.

Photo Credit: Clay Fisher

So, when fall migration peaks in late September and October, who is checking into Georgia, and who is checking out? Feathered friends including a few sparrow species, multiple duck species, kinglets and cedar waxwings come to Georgia. These species have been nesting up north all spring and summer long. We also have some species checking out in search of warmer weather. Warblers, thrushes, orioles and more will begin their journey south.

Photo Credit: Clay Fisher

How can you spot these travelers, and maybe even help out? While most of these birds will do the bulk of their traveling at night, you can still spot them while they stop for food. In fact, with the losses in stopover habitat, you can ensure a sighting by turning your backyard into a migratory bird oasis! Plants such as elderberry, sumac, and dogwood provide berries. Hackberry and American beautyberry provide nutrient-rich fruits. Providing a feeding place or birds helps fuel them up for their long journey, or help them recharge after it.

Photo Credit: Clay Fisher

So grab your binoculars and field guide, and observe! Don’t forget that the best way to observe wildlife is to stop, look, and listen. 

Author: Dana Buskovitz, Piedmont Park Conservancy Education Coordinator

Want to learn more about animals, plants and all things science? Follow our education team on their Instagram @piedmontlearns.