Migration Mysteries Solved

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Satellite Transmitter on a Common Loon. Source: USGS

Here in the Northern Hemisphere, we spend much of summers chasing birds to look at their breeding habits. For the rest of the year, migrating birds spend their time elsewhere.  I’ve mentioned what happens to migrating Common Nighthawks  here and here, but what about the rest of the birds?

Until recently, bird migration has been largely understudied, due to lack of funds to travel to Central and South America. Some organizations, like Golondrinas, have targeted scientists in the southern hemisphere to fill in the blanks.

But, now due to expanded efforts to recruit citizen scientists in other parts of the world, like Cornell’s eBird, and the lower costs and smaller sizes of satellite transmitters that permit scientists to download data without recapturing birds, the mysteries of the other months of the year are starting to be solved.

If you would like to see the larger migration patterns of a year generated by eBird data, check out this animated movie found at this post. Biologists pair the data with land cover analysis from ArcGIS to discover which habitats are crucial to the annual life cycle of birds.

More information is always needed, especially as we face the increasing challenges of the Anthropocene that include land use and climate change, pressures on the land due to food and water shortages, ecotoxins, and invasive species.

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