Seasonal patterns and protection status of stopover hotspots for migratory landbirds in the eastern United States

Fengyi Guo, Jeffrey J. Buler, Jaclyn A. Smolinsky, David S. Wilcove

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Migratory landbirds in North America are experiencing dramatic population declines. Although considerable research and conservation attention have been directed toward these birds’ breeding and wintering grounds, far less is known about the areas used as stopover sites during migration. To address this knowledge gap, we used 5 years of weather surveillance radar data to map seasonal stopover densities of landbirds across the eastern United States during spring and autumn migration. We identified stopover hotspots covering 2.47 million ha that consistently support high densities of migratory landbirds in spring or autumn. However, only 16.7% of these sites are hotspots in both seasons. The distribution of hotspots is shifted eastward in autumn compared with spring. Deciduous forest is the most important habitat type in both seasons, with deciduous forest fragments embedded in broadly deforested regions having the highest probability of being hotspots. The concentration of birds in these forest fragments is stronger in spring, especially in the agricultural Midwest. We found generally higher stopover densities in protected areas than in unprotected areas in both seasons. Nonetheless, only one-third of identified stopover hotspots have some sort of protected status, and more than half of these protected hotspots are subject to extractive uses. A well-distributed network of well-protected stopover areas, complementing conservation efforts on the breeding and wintering grounds, is essential to sustaining healthy populations of migratory landbirds in North America.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)235-244.e3
JournalCurrent Biology
Volume34
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 22 2024

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)

Keywords

  • conservation
  • forest fragment
  • full annual cycle
  • hotspot
  • landbird
  • migration
  • protected area
  • radar ornithology
  • seasonal difference
  • stopover habitat

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