University of Southern Mississippi
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 migration stopover habitats. 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 to 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.
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