Mapping stopover habitat in the Southeastern U.S.
Funding: Atlantic Coast Joint Venture, US Fish and Wildlife Service
Collaborators: Deanna Dawson, USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, Tim Jones, Atlantic Coast Joint Venture
Most conservation efforts for migratory landbirds in North America have focused on protecting or enhancing breeding habitat. For many species, however, migration may be the period in the annual cycle when mortality is highest. For instance, during fall juvenile birds are making their first migratory flights; their success, and that of adult birds, depends on the availability of suitable habitats where they can safely rest and re-fuel. The southeastern U.S. includes the take-off points for millions of migrating landbirds en route to tropical wintering areas. Identifying the sites and habitats where migrants rest and forage before they embark on overwater crossings is thus a critical step in development of a comprehensive regional conservation plan for migratory landbirds.
Doppler weather surveillance radars can detect birds as they depart daytime stopover sites at dusk to resume nocturnal migratory flight, and radar reflectivity measures are correlated to bird density aloft. By observing the relative magnitude and temporal variability of bird density during a migration season, these radars allow for a spatially-explicit assessment of the importance of migratory stopover sites across large geographic areas.
The overall objective of this research is to map important stopover sites used by landbirds during fall and spring migration across the Southeastern U.S.. David La Puma is the postdoc conducting this research, and is using data collected by six coastal weather surveillance radars to identify important stopover sites. Specifically he will use these data to: 1) determine where along the coast migrants embark on overwater flights, and 2) develop statistical models to predict potentially important stopover sites in areas not sampled by the radars. David is working to develop statistical models that will be transferable across regions to aid in identifying stopover habitat outside of the view of weather surveillance radars across the entire U.S.