August 12, 2009

Migratory birds not picky about rest stops

A U.S. study suggests migrating birds will stop in any environment where there is adequate food and protection, and not just in large forested areas.

Purdue University Associate Professor John Dunning and graduate student Diane Packett conducted the study, which indicates conservation efforts should extend to smaller forested lands to help stabilize declining migratory bird populations.

There are strategies for conserving forest for migratory birds, but those strategies emphasize the largest patches of forest, Dunning said. We found that even very small woodlots were filled with migratory birds at times. It makes us believe we also need to conserve the little patches of forest, not just the big ones.

Dunning and Packett observed woodlots near Indiana's Wabash River and its tributaries that were less than 20 acres and had row crops surrounding them on at least three sides. They made observations during both the spring and fall of 76 species of migratory birds that travel thousands of miles between South and Central America and Canada twice each year.

They don't make the trip all in one jump. It can be thousands of miles they have to fly, Packett said. They need safe places to stop, eat and rest. If they don't have that, they might not survive.

The study's findings are detailed in the current issue of The Auk, the journal of the American Ornithologists' Union.