Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Citizen's Guide: Obstacles Along Migration Routes [I'd Love to Save the World]

In the last entry to the Citizen's Guide to Migratory Bird Conservation we learned about challenges to migratory birds that occur on their Latin American wintering grounds. Next up, the trials and tribulations of migration. My comments follow.

The Citizen's Guide to Migratory Bird Conservation
Obstacles Along Migration Routes

During migration, birds use an astonishing array of habitats, from boreal coniferous forests and temperate-zone deciduous forests to grasslands, scrublands, and tropical rainforest. All these habitats must support the birds' need s for food and protection from weather and predators. Clearly, the presence of suitable habitat along migratory routes is crucial to the birds' ability to survive and reproduce successfully each year. The longer a bird must search for a satisfactory stopover area, the less time and energy it has to complete migration, set up and defend a territory, and raise young.

During spring and fall, neotropical migrants funnel through small areas where they rest and feed before beginning nonstop flights over land or water. Many species make 20-, 40-, and even 80-hour nonstop flights over water, so coastal habitats are particularly important stopover zones. Unfortunately, these areas are disappearing under a welter of condominiums and vacation homes. Other prime stopover sites, such as those along rivers, are being destroyed as well.

Greenberg, R., S. Lumpkin, and A. Weissman. 1995. Citizen's Guide to Migratory Bird Conservation, Bonney, R., S. Carlson, and M. Fischer, eds. Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA.

Russell Greenberg and Susan Lumpkin, Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center, National Zoological Park, Washington, DC 20008

Arthur Weissman, Green Seal, 1250 23rd St. NW, Washington, DC 20037

My comments:
As all previous sections, this one has been excerpted in its entirety. Author information and article text current as of 1995.

When thinking about migration and stopover habitats I'm immediately reminded of an article David Sibley wrote that appeared in an airline magazine. The analogy he creates that sticks out is that of our own travel:

You travel for a reason, and with some assurance that your travel will be successful, but what if you flew from Portland, Oregon, to Springfield, Missouri, only to find that the Springfield airport had been turned into a shopping mall and there was nowhere to land? What would happen to the Baird’s sandpipers if that lake in Ecuador was drained for agriculture?

Clearly, the major issue is habitat loss, not being able to find suitable stopover sites to rest and refuel. But I suspect in our 2009 world it would be worthwhile to highlight that just getting to stopover sites is a becoming a challenge. The problems created by the myriad of communication towers has certainly increased since this article's publication in 1995, and the construction of the myriad-squared wind turbines that are underway should be included as a prevailing concern. Development of strip malls and condos should in no way be lessened, but hopefully we can have an impact on how wind farm development evolves and how communications towers are lighted.

What other migratory issues should be highlighted in this section? Your comments and suggestions are not only welcome, but encouraged!


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