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Migratory Birds

Full Title: A multiscale approach to understanding migratory land bird habitat use of functional stopover habitat types and management efforts

This project is investigating migratory bird use of stopover habitats to inform bird habitat protection and restoration decisions in the Gulf of Mexico region.

The Team: Theodore J. Zenzal Jr, Ph.D. (Lead Investigator, U.S. Geological Survey, The University of Southern Mississippi,, Jeff Buler, Ph.D. (University of Delaware), Wylie C. Barrow Jr., Ph.D. (U. S. Geological Survey), and Barry C. Wilson (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)

Technical Monitor: Jeff Gleason (

Federal Program Officer/Point of Contact: Frank Parker (

This project began in July 2017 and will end in June 2022.

Award Amount: $1,492,151

Why it matters: Over two-thirds of all land birds and over half of the migratory species in North America move long distances to areas in Mexico, Central and South America and the Caribbean islands. For birds crossing the Gulf of Mexico, habitats along the northern Gulf of Mexico coast provide the last possible stopover before autumn migrants make a nonstop flight and the first possible landfall for birds returning north in the spring. Many migratory bird populations are declining in association with losses in quality and amount of these critical migration stopover habitats.

What the team is doing: This project will develop a better understanding of migratory land bird habitat use along the northern Gulf of Mexico coast to inform habitat decisions for land managers and conservation planners. The researchers will study migrant bird use of stopover habitats that differ in their function for migrants (e.g., resting or feeding), measure migrant habitat use relative to current habitat management efforts, and assess if weather surveillance radar can serve as an effective conservation tool for migratory birds. Weather surveillance radar and land cover maps will be used to make predictions of bird use for the entire northern Gulf of Mexico region. Weather radar also allows investigators to measure the response of migrants to management efforts, including habitat protection and restoration programs.

Expected Outcome: This project will provide critical information on how migratory birds are using stopover habitat on the northern Gulf of Mexico coast to assist resource managers in addressing declines in migratory bird populations linked to quality and quantity of stopover habitat. Towards that end, the project is developing a bioenergetics model to identify food energy sources and sinks along the northern Gulf of Mexico.

From the seminar “Integrating weather surveillance radar data with habitat and bird metrics to more effectively manage migratory songbirds along the northern Gulf of Mexico” 
Presenter: Dr. T.J. Zenzal, Wetland and Aquatic Research Center, U.S. Geological Survey

Other Resources