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  November 12, 2002

Birds Flock To Storrs Campus
By Kelly Byrne

If you've taken a walk through campus lately, you've probably noticed the typical signs of autumn. Students are beginning to study for finals, the leaves are changing color and falling to the ground, and it is already dark around 5 p.m. But there's another seasonal phenomenon occurring on campus, and if you've stood under a tree recently, you'll know what that is.

Look in any given tree on campus, and you'll notice 20 or 30 birds occupying it. That number of birds together at one time not only makes for quite a sight, but is also noticeably noisy.

The answer to why the trees have suddenly become a haven for so many birds is migration. According to John Barclay, associate professor of natural resources management, these birds are primarily black birds known as Grackles, but there may be other species too.

The ritual of large groups of birds flocking together occurs every year after the breeding period, when they are still in social groups. Such large groups can be seen all over North America, usually just before dark, prior to the birds' migration to the southeastern United States for the winter months.

"These species of birds are opportunists, who look for a large area of land to search for food and berries," says Barclay.

The phenomenon won't last much longer this season, however. Migration began in August and will last for about two more weeks.

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