A place to land: spatiotemporal drivers of stopover habitat use by migrating birds

Authors: Emily B. Cohen, Kyle G.Horton, Peter P. Marra, Hannah L. Clipp, Andrew Farnsworth, Jaclyn A. Smolinsky, Daniel Sheldon and Jeffrey J. Buler

Year: 2020

Publication: Ecology Letters

Publication Link: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/ele.13618

Keywords: Florida, Gulf of Mexico, migration, nearctic-neotropical migratory bird, NEXRAD, weather surveillance radar

Abstract: Migrating birds require en route habitats to rest and refuel. Yet, habitat use has never been integrated with passage to understand the factors that determine where and when birds stopover during spring and autumn migration. Here, we introduce the stopover-to-passage ratio (SPR), the
percentage of passage migrants that stop in an area, and use 8 years of data from 12 weather surveillance radars to estimate over 50% SPR during spring and autumn through the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic coasts of the south-eastern US, the most prominent corridor for North America’s migratory birds. During stopovers, birds concentrated close to the coast during spring and inland in forested landscapes during autumn, suggesting seasonal differences in habitat function and highlighting the vital role of stopover habitats in sustaining migratory communities. Beyond advancing understanding of migration ecology, SPR will facilitate conservation through identification of sites that are disproportionally selected for stopover by migrating birds.

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