Where do birds go when they need a rest?

Using weather satellite imagery, researchers have located important migratory stopovers

As migrating birds travel back and forth between summer breeding grounds and winter rangers, places along the route provide important opportunities to rest and refuel. But where the birds choose to stopover is often a mystery. In a recent study, researchers used weather radar imagery to maps these stopovers. They found over 9,000 square miles of land across the eastern United States served as stopover hotspots.

These hot spots mostly consisted deciduous forests and isolated pockets of forest. Most of these lands were unprotected, researchers found, although protected landscapes had a higher density of stopover areas. And the spots birds choose in the fall are often different than the ones they choose in the spring.

“This information is incredibly important,” said Princeton professor David Wilcove, a co-author of the paper published in Current BIology. “Without it, we wouldn’t know which sites to protect to ensure safe passage for the birds.”

Read more from the Center for Policy Research on Energy and the Environment.

Header Image: Cape May warblers (Setophaga tigrine) rely on stopovers on their spring and fall migrations. Credit: Andy Reago & Chrissy McClarren