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Word of the Week: Zugunruhe

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Welcome to Word of the Week! Stay tuned for a new word each Friday to amp up your nature vocabulary!

Zugunruhe [Zug-un-ru-he] (noun) is a German term that combines the two words “zug” (move/migration) and “unruhe” (anxiety/restlessness), which refers to a migratory restlessness in animals.

The phenomenon was first observed in migrant birds, who display a series of behavioural changes in order to prepare for their seasonal journey. Birds have a special biological instinct in them that signifies seasonal change, and create a feeling of anxiety that tells them to move, move, move! This urge to move cannot be contained for migrant birds, and they prepare for the long trip by changing their normal activity and sleeping patterns; in some birds such as the sandpiper, their organs will atrophy to accommodate for the long trip ahead!

Toronto is a hotspot for birds to migrate through in the fall and spring, and High Park is an especially popular stopover point. Keep your eyes and ears open this month as birds start heading back from their winter migration journey! Some birds you can spot returning to High Park include: warblers, thrushes, hummingbirds, and more!

You may be feeling that zugunruhe also, as the spring season brings us warm weather and longer days, which motivates us to get out of our home!