New study shows where birds stop during migration

Jan. 20, 2023

During their annual autumn migration across the eastern United States, birds face numerous threats and obstacles -- such as habitat loss, predation, storms and climate change, among other threats. But new research conducted at Princeton University can aid conservation efforts by helping to alleviate and lesson some of these challenges.

The new study, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, presents the first comprehensive map of autumn stopover hotspots of landbirds for the eastern United States. Stopover sites are locations where birds pause between migratory flights in order to rest and refuel before resuming their journeys.

“This is the first time we’ve had a comprehensive picture of where songbirds are stopping over for the entirety of the eastern United States,” said Princeton ecologist and author of the study David Wilcove. “It gives us a powerful new tool for identifying the key habitats these birds are using during their epic migrations." 

The study found that a network of protected forested land distributed across the eastern US is key to maintaining healthy populations of migratory landbirds. The authors urge the protection of broadleaf forests, especially the remaining forests in the agriculturally dominated Midwest. Locally-based conservation efforts across the eastern U.S. will be key to protecting bird species along their migratory journeys.

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