It is hard to believe that many of the small “backyard birds” people see during spring and autumn can make migratory journeys that span thousands of kilometers. In fact, over two-thirds of all land birds (i.e., those not associated with aquatic habitats) and over half of the migratory species in North America move long distances to areas in Mexico, Central and South America, and the Caribbean islands. Some have argued that long-distance migrants experience the best of two worlds by virtue of their migratory strategy: increased reproductive success by breeding in food-rich, competitor-poor temperate areas and increased survival by wintering in warmer tropical areas. However, traveling long distances across areas that vary physiographically comes with considerable risks, and the mortality associated with long-distance migration may be substantial, especially among young, inexperienced birds making the journey for the first time.
Although many migratory land birds are capable of making spectacular, nonstop flights over geographic barriers, including the Sahara Desert, the eastern Atlantic Ocean, and the Gulf of Mexico, few actually fly nonstop from their point of origin to their final destination. Rather, they make periodic stops lasting a few hours to a few days before resuming migration. The place where a migratory bird pauses for some length of time between migratory flights is called a stopover site. For birds crossing the Gulf of Mexico that must contend with a 13 to 32 hour nonstop flight, the habitats along the northern Gulf of Mexico coast provide the last possible stopover before autumn migrants make a nonstop flight south and the first possible landfall for birds returning north in the spring.
|Title||A multiscale approach to understanding migratory land bird habitat use of functional stopover habitat types and management efforts|
|Authors||Theodore J. Zenzal|
|Series Title||Gulf of Mexico Avian Monitoring Network (GoMAMN)|
|Record Source||USGS Publications Warehouse|
|USGS Organization||Wetland and Aquatic Research Center|