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Figure demonstrating the integration of different types of data to visualize the fall migration of Swainson’s Hawk. Credit: (Meehan et al. 2022)

More than forty scientists from the National Audubon Society and other bird and wildlife research and conservation groups have published a new study modeling a new approach to mapping the seasonal migration routes of birds. The study, recently published in Ecological applications, combines some of the best available forms of migration data for 12 migratory bird species that represented different families, migratory strategies, breeding ranges, and available dataset sizes. This new method is a major step forward for the conservation of migratory birds at a time when many species are in dramatic decline.

“Migratory birds make some of the most impressive journeys on Earth, and this new method of mapping their migrations gives us a clearer picture of where these birds travel,” said Dr. Tim Meehan, quantitative ecologist for National Audubon. Society and lead author. of the study.

The migration data used in this study can be classified into three broad categories: patterns of occurrence and abundance, represented by eBird Status products from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology; banding recovery data, provided by the USGS Bird Banding Laboratory; and tracking datasets contributed by researchers around the world and made available on Movebank. The researchers integrated these types of migratory data for 12 focal species, taking advantage of the strengths of each, to create a comprehensive and accurate map of migratory bird movements. The models give researchers a unique picture of avian migration, especially for species with migrations over water or migrations that take place in isolated geographic areas.

“Birds tell us about the health of our environment, and better mapping of their flyways shows us where we should focus our conservation efforts,” said Dr Jill Deppe, senior director of the Migratory Birds Initiative. of Audubon and co-author of the study. “These new maps will help communities across the hemisphere protect migratory birds and the places they need.”

For many species of migratory birds, the complete annual cycle remains relatively unknown or poorly understood. The three types of data describe the annual cycle in different ways; Banding and tracking data provide detailed information on how individual birds move through the hemisphere, often allowing links between breeding and wintering populations, but they provide limited information on the movement of the entire bird. population.

eBird Status products use information collected by community scientists to provide information on the distribution of the entire population throughout the year. By combining these two types of data, the researchers were able to generate maps that depict the pathways by which migratory birds move through the hemisphere. Migratory birds are also facing steep declines, with an estimated 2.5 billion individuals lost between 1970 and 2019. This unique information on migratory routes will enable conservationists across the hemisphere to protect and restore more effectively the habitats on which these birds depend throughout their full annual cycle. .

More types of migration data can allow for even further development of this integration, filling gaps in knowledge about species across the hemisphere.

“The more data we have and the better the tracking technology, the clearer these migration pathways can be,” said Dr Sarah Saunders, quantitative ecologist and co-author of the study. “It’s exciting to be able to work with researchers around the world to put these pieces together and give us the best chance of protecting migratory birds.”


Some nomadic birds look for social cues to stop migrating


More information:

Timothy D. Meehan et al, Integrating Data Types to Estimate Spatial Patterns of Avian Migration in the Western Hemisphere, Ecological applications (2022). DOI: 10.1002/eap.2679

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National Audubon Society

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Scientists develop new method to improve bird migration mapping (2022, June 7)
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