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Migratory Birds, Bats and Butterflies
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Migratory Birds Tie the World Together

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by David King

Forest Service

The Bar-tailed godwit leaves Alaska and travels non-stop across the Pacific to New Zealand--an 8-day journey of more than 7,000 miles.

David King is a research wildlife biologist for the Forest Service, Northern Research Station, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA.

W inging your way across the ocean at 35,000 feet in a passenger jet, you might marvel at the human ingenuity that made such travel possible—and yet birds have been doing it since time immemorial. For many birds, migration is the secret to reproductive success, giving them access to rich seasonal resources in temperate regions. The larger broods and greater nesting success made possible by access to these resources more than offset the hazards of travel.

In the United States, migratory birds range from waterfowl, to owls and hawks, to the familiar thrushes, warblers, and other songbirds. Migration strategies vary. Whereas many larger species travel by day, most small birds fly at night, when air conditions are more settled and the bird-eating hawks are asleep. As they travel, they emit characteristic “contact calls” to help keep the flock together.

Although birds are designed to withstand migratory rigors, long flights can put them at risk. Migrating birds sometimes arrive onshore in a state of exhaustion, without enough energy to find food or escape predators. They desperately need stopover areas. For example, the future of North America’s shorebirds could hinge on initiatives to protect stopover habitats through the Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network.

The success of migratory bird conservation in North America also depends on the system of national wildlife refuges for additional stopover areas. Also important are the national forests and grasslands as well as other Federal lands and State and local parks. For example, Central Park in New York City becomes a birdwatcher’s paradise in spring. Private lands, including individual backyards, also furnish critical habitat if properly managed, especially for songbirds.

Migratory birds help tie the world together, from north to south, through the species we share and our mutual stake in conserving their habitats. Habitat conservation through local, regional, and international partnerships can help protect the timeless wonder of bird migration

Conservation Achievements Recognized: Wings Across the Americas 2009 Awards Ceremony

The Forest Service and its partners are looking at alternative methodologies for cultivating and processing coffee in order to conserve migratory birds such as the
Golden-winged warbler

In March 2009, at its annual Wings Across the Americas awards ceremony, the Forest Service recognized outstanding achievements in bird, bat, and butterfly conservation. Birds provide key ecological, recreational, and economic benefits throughout the Americas, but many bird species are declining. Bats are important pollinators, seed dispersers, and insect predators, but they too are in steep decline, mostly due to habitat destruction. The transcontinental migration of monarch butterflies is one of nature’s wonders, but habitat loss threatens the monarch as well. Interregional and international partnerships are vital in conserving migratory birds, bats, and butterflies; and the Forest Service has fostered them for years. The Wings Across the Americas awards ceremony brought partners together to recognize their outstanding achievements.

The Butterfly Conservation Award went to the Butterfly Inventory and Habitat Recovery Project on the Ottawa National Forest in Michigan; the Bat Conservation Award went to the Bat Inventory and Habitat Improvement Project in the Forest Service’s Northern Region; the Research and Management Partnership Awards went to projects called Status and Trends of Northern Spotted Owls and Ecology and Population Dynamics of Marbled Murrelet in the Pacific Northwest; the Habitat Management and Partnership Award went to the Glade Wetlands Restoration Project; and the International Cooperation Award went to a project known as Migratory Bird Conservation Using Alternative Coffee Cultivation and Processing Methodologies. For more information, click here.

very spring, the world pours through my backyard.Maybe not the whole world—just most of the Western Hemisphere. I can walk outside and find bits of the humid jungle of the Orinoco Basin or the Maya Mountains of Belize; the cool highlands of the Sierra Madre de Oriental or the elfin cloud forest of the eastern Andes. If I know where to look, I can find the windswept tundra of the Ungava Peninsula and the boggy muskeg of Newfoundland. On a single day, the Arctic coastal plain, the sandy beaches of the Carolinas, and the grasslands of the Argentine pampas may pay a visit.


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