The first listed way to treat paths is to CLARIFY, CATEGORIZE, SURVEY, SYSTEMATIZE, OR DEFINE them.
Thus one could define the migratory route of a bird species as that path flown annually by most able members of a subpopulation of the species who share the same home territory, the flight occurring more or less synchronously and at a fixed time of year or season, and involving two counter-flights: the first usually equator-ward, with the second being the return trip to the original higher latitude. (Here one might first wish to consult an organon under the ideonomic division DEFINITIONS, such as 'Universal Taxonomy of Possible Types of Definitions of Things'.)
One could variously clarify the definition just given, for example by increasing the quantitative or qualitative precision of its terms or their implications: "that path" (of what structure, specificity, or complexity?), "by most able members" (what fraction? able sensu ability or sensu whether they migrate or not? do other fractions trace other paths?), "Same home territory" (how precisely and exclusively?), "synchronously" (starting and ending when? what duration? at first attempt? as to initial departure or en route?), "fixed time" (calendrically, seasonally, or depending upon weather or other factors? over a few years or secularly?), "first usually equator-ward" (occasionally poleward instead? or to another longitude but without change of latitude?), etc.
One might survey a single year's migration for its complete or fine spatial plot or for variations among the comigratory bionts.
One could categorize bird migrations-that is, divide the paths they represent or illustrate into types-by distinguishing ones that are "Partial" from ones that are "complete", ones "regular" versus ones "nomadic", ones "standard" from ones "alternate", ones "false" (say abortive or preliminary) from ones "true", ones "rectilinear" from ones "Curvilinear", ones "simple" from ones "compound", ones "swift" from ones "sluggish or haiting", ones temporally "predictable" from ones "unpredictable", ones annually "certain" to ones "uncertain", ones "minimal" or "local" from ones "regional" or "intercontinental", ones "over-land" or "along-land" from ones "transoceanic", and so forth.
Finally, one might systematize such migrations by indicating their theoretically possible and impossible combinations and relationships, their empirical correlations, or their differential occurrence among avian taxa.
A second major way to treat paths is to COMPARE, ANALOGIZE, OR DISTINGUISH THEM.
The migratory flight of a bird can be compared with itself, to see if it is autocorrelated, self-descriptive, fractal, uniform, compound, consistent, hierarchic or multilevel, or the like, or the measure or form thereof.
The paths of birds of the same species that are migrating at the same moment might be compared to see if their paths are analogous in more ways, or to a greater degree, than would be expected, or could be accounted for, by chance or on the basis of conventional ideas. Perhaps there are forces or mechanisms never before imagined that operate to produce flock or inter-flock cohesion, compensatory interadjustment, spatial or temporal periodicity, or perturbed spatial distributions that are morphologically, morphogenetically, or morphodynamically complex and beautiful.
There may be an unrealized need to distinguish between the different flight paths of flocks of birds. They may differ in nuances or in gross type, even within the same species.
A third way to treat paths is to CONSTRUCT them.
In the case of bird migratory paths this might seem impractical, but in fact man may already be doing it inadvertently as he creates farmlands, lakes, and cities that serve as aviaries-or as breeding, feeding, stopover, and overwintering sites-for migratory species.
Abstract or miniature migratory routes might be created experimentally in the laboratory or field-with real.birds forced, conditioned, or bred to take them seriously-but here we encroach upon what is more properly the concern of two later items in this list.
A fourth way to treat paths is to CONSTRUCT THEORIES, HYPOTHESES, OR CONJECTURES ABOUT OR INVOLVING them.
The evolutionary origins of migratory behavior are unclear or problematic. To explain the origin of avian migration one might variously theorize, hypothesize, or conjecture that: 1. Birds have periodically been evicted from their ancestral nesting grounds by ice ages, and allowed to return during the interglacials, which has established a pattern of behavior that has carried over into the orders-of-magnitude higher frequency seasonal migrations. 2. Migration began locally (daily between tree levels, trees, or contiguous biomes-or seasonally between northward and southward sides of lakes, mountains, or islands) and increased until it was regional, say between counter-sloping land surfaces hundreds of kilometers wide possessed of different climate, irrigation, and flora as a result of their tilt; finally, accidental or forced overextension or extrapolation of the migration to progressively greater distances occurred.
3. Over time, bird species may necessarily have overshot one anothers' ranges, say in long cascades or sequences of migratory minima. 4. Heterosis coupled with the power of flight may have created An instinct for seasonal exogamy between the limits of a species' range. 5. The territories or demes of bird species were continually split or fragmented by general biogeographic drift or entrainment, the formation of mountain ranges and inland seas, etc, and this led to the saitatory flights of birds that are known as migrations. 6. Original large circular flights became specialized as migrations (circles became ellipses which in turn became counter-flight lines).
7. Nomadic migration evolved into seasonal migration. 8. Natural selection could have operated over the set of flights of bionts to random distances and in random directions, 9. Natural selection-like so many physics phenomena- is a continuum, a process that operates dimensionlessly and impartibly at all scales and in all degrees. 10. When birds first emerged and flight began, avian territories and lifetime movements may have been less differentiated and more extended than today, 11. Near coasts or along meridional mountain ranges bird territories and movements may be compressed and elongated into meridional strings capable of compensating in part for seasonal changes in climate and vegetation.
Yet a fifth way to treat paths is to CRITICIZE them.
Bird migrations that occur today are usually viewed as admirable evolutionary adaptations. Yet many may be badly out of phase with recent changes of climate or completely vestigial. Conceivably most have been made obsolete by the vast planetary biogeographic transformation that has been caused by the advance of modern civilization.
A sixth way to treat paths is to DEDUCE OR DESCRIBE THE HISTORY OF the paths.
One might deduce a plausible history of past changes in the flyway of a species of bird by first making an exacting study of the geographic qualities of the species' present-day breeding and wintering areas: their soil, vegetation, pollen, ecology, climate, hydrology, topography, etc, and the geographic configurations of their nested isopleths; and possibly enhancing this with a complementary study of the physiologic and ecologic needs, tolerances, and adaptive powers of the species. This data could then be used to suggest historic range and flyway extensions, contractions, distortions, saltations, interruptions, substitutions, and evolutions.
Knowledge about other and competitive bird species, knowledge of paleobiology, paleoclimatology, and paleogeology, mathematical models, and computer simulations could all be brought into play.
One might describe the very recent history of the species' migratory path by having recourse to the direct observations of ornithologists and birders over past decades.
A seventh way to treat paths is to DISCOVER THE LAWS ORIGINATING-OR GOVERNING THE BEHAVIOR, PROPERTIES, POSSSIBILITIES, OR USES OF-the particular paths or paths in general.
Various laws, or some overarching or composite law, might control the migratory flyway's : stability, self-interaction, plasticity, cohesion, breadth, terminal distribution, efficiency, branching, sensitivity to weather and food availability, evolution, density, rate of use, redundancy, sensitivity to the flights of diverse species, etc.
An eighth way to treat paths is to EVALUATE them.
Thus the migratory path of a bird could be evaluated with respect to any of the qualitative and quantitative aspects of flyways that were just listed. The flight of a flock or of a single bird could be evaluated by comparing it with the norms of the species.
A ninth way to treat paths is to EXEMPLIFY OR REEXEMPLIFY them.
A close field or imaginary study of the flight of an individual bird could be used to exemplify the entire species to which it belongs. The characteristic migratory flight of the species could be reexemplified by the flight of a second bird, and this reexemplification could show the average random variation of conspecific bionts or their paths, or suggest the idiobiology of the species.
The migratory path of the species might be used to reexemplify a pure ideonomic category of path, or, perhaps per se, might itself be reexemplified a depiction of the path of another species;of an animal that is not a bird, or of an inanimate object or process.
A tenth way to treat paths is to EXPERIMENT UPON OR WITH-OR TEST-them.
This is done whenever a bird about to migrate is equipped with depolarizin goggles or a remotely controlled magnet, by way of testing or experimenting upon its hypothetical orientational and navigational mechanisms: their nature, sensitivity, adaptability, redundancy, interdependence, hierarchy, coding, involuntariness, or the like.
An eleventh way to treat paths is to EXPLORE, EXAMINE, OR PERCEIVE them.
This could be done by equipping another experimental bird with a magnetometer linked to a radiotransmitter, to test any conformity of the flight path to geomagnetic field lines and local deviations thereof (i.e. to examine the path qua co-path).
To better perceive the path- radar, a range finder, or direct or indirect satellite telemetry could be used.
Were the paths of a large number of birds simultaneously participating in a mass migration plotted and mapped, well-known mathematical methods could subsequently be used to explore the intercorrelational complexities of these comapped paths.
Yet a twelfth way to treat paths is to EXTRAPOLATE, COMPLETE, OR SUPPLEMENT them.
By extrapolating logical continuations of segments of flight paths of migrating birds, anomalous deviations therefrom may be highlighted, or appreciated en masse. Also, the whole of a flight path may be predicted by extrapolation and interpolation using sampled parts of it.
Today certain flyways may still be growing or evolving, Theory or imagination could endeavor to complete them. Also, presumably all real migrations are truncated by some barriers that are irrelevant to the extent that their existence is unnecessary, whose removal could have consequences that are interesting and instructive to imagine.
Another gedanken experiment worth conducting could be to mentally supplement an existing flyway with a parallel flyway that has no analog in the real world. Would this unnatural, abrupt, or competitive-used or merely usable-flyway be disruptive or inconsequent?
A thirteenth way to treat paths is to GENERALIZE them.
To what extent can bird migratory paths-or facts about or aspects of same-be generalized to the migratory paths of all animals, or to groups of animals such as insects, fish, mammals, or microorganisms? To what extent can the former be used to describe, predict, classify, bound, or explain-or simply to illuminate-the latter?
To what degree may the totality of organismal migrations simultaneously over the earth form a single dynamical system of great complexity?
A fourteenth way to treat paths is to IMPROVE OR PERFECT them.
In what ways, then, might it be possible to improve or perfect the existing migratory paths of birds (or could these conceivably be imperfectible -or pluperfect)? What are all of the abstract and actual types, classes, and instances of ways in which birds' migratory routes might be improved and perfected?
Do flyways unwarrantedly overlook food supplies in overflown or bypassed valleys? Are flyways avoidably congested (congested in a way that is irreconcilable with at least the collective interest of the many diverse species that co-use them)? How efficiently-or inefficiently-do birds coordinate their migratory paths with the contingent weather patterns prevailing at the time they embark on their flights?
A fifteenth way to treat paths is to MEASURE, QUANTIFY, OR MATHEMATIZE them.
Given that flyways that recur year after year are clearly distinguishable
on the largest geographic scales, one becomes curious to know at how many
lesser scales distinguishable flyways occur, whether as hierarchical parts
of the larger or largest flyways, or as independent flyways. One approach
to answering this question would be to anathematize bird migration, to
quantify it (its lineality, collinearity, paralinearity, subdivisibility,
hierarchicality, self-descriptiveness, uniformity, geographic fixity, etc),
and (finally and on the basis of the foregoing) to measure it. Perhaps
it will be found that there are scale-invariant laws that govern the subdivisibility
of avian flyways and that re-create the phenomenon at every scale.