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New interactive website reveals bird migrations through your backyard

Graham, Lester
Audubon Society
A screen capture from the Bird Migration Explorer website. Each dot reveals an area. From there a visitor can find more about birds and their migration through a certain area.

For the first time, you can track all of the birds that might visit your backyard during the fall migration. A new interactive website called Bird Migration Explorer can be searched by bird species or by location, using data from many different research centers in North America.

“Explorer allows it all to be in one location and gives the public view and to a lot of the scientific information and an easy to use platform that they wouldn't have had access to previously,” said Stuart Mackenzie, Director of Strategic Assets at Birds Canada.

The Bird Migration Explorer is not in ‘real time,’ but it is updated with the newest information available.

Graham, Lester
Audubon Society
A screen grab from the Bird Migration Explorer to illustrate the breakdown of regions. Information includes types of birds you might see in your backyard and when they're expected.

“This is very up to date in terms of having some of the latest tracks of individual birds as they move across the country and across the hemisphere,” said Chad Wilsey, Vice President and Chief Scientist at the National Audubon Society.

Besides showing migration routes from North America to Central and South America, you can type in your zip code to see what’s happening in your area.

“’Find birds that travel through my backyard,’ that’s my favorite button to click on, because then you’re seeing a filtered list of bird species that actually go through your neighborhood or your community,” said Wilsey.

Ten science, conservation, and technology groups worked together to create the Explorer. Using their own data and more than 500 studies from researchers and institutions around the world, they’ve developed a comprehensive set of maps and information about bird migration in our hemisphere.

The organizations and institutions involved are:

  • Birds Canada
  • Bird Conservancy of the Rockies
  • Bird Genoscape Project
  • BirdLive International
  • Cornell Lab of Ornithology
  • Esri
  • Georgetown University
  • Movebank
  • National Audubon Society
  • Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center
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Lester Graham
Birds of prey, shorebirds, songbirds, as well as birds like this great blue heron will soon begin migrating south.

Part of the motivation to create the new interactive digital platform is to stir more interest among the public. Researchers are concerned about the fate of birds around the world. A 2019 study found there are about 3 billion fewer birds now than there were in 1970. Most of the decline is due to habitat loss, but there’s also great concern about migrating birds colliding with lighted buildings at night. Millions have died because of building collisions. The lights and reflective glass confuse the birds.

Some cities have passed ordinances, requiring lights be turned off during migration periods. Some building owners have put strategic decals or other markings on windows that help prevent birds from flying into them.

The Bird Migration Explorer tracks 458 bird species, many of which travel through the Great Lakes Region during the fall migration which is underway.

You can find more information in this article from the National Audubon Society.

Lester Graham reports for The Environment Report. He has reported on public policy, politics, and issues regarding race and gender inequity. He was previously with The Environment Report at Michigan Radio from 1998-2010.
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