Over thousands of years, bird species have developed specific habitat requirements and unique migratory routes that link them to areas both north and south. Our nine priority southern geographies and their linked habitats in the north provide a structure to help protect the full annual cycle.
Showing simplified migration routes for several priority bird species, this map illustrates how the birds’ habitat requirements link them to specific areas for breeding and wintering.
For example, the Long-billed Curlew uses grasslands in Mexico in winter and grasslands in the American West for breeding.
Crops and cattle grazing have replaced many of the native grasslands of Mexico’s Chihuahuan region, but Long-billed Curlew still return there each winter. They arrive back in the Great Plains and Great Basin in the spring, seeking out short grasses for breeding.
A unique ecosystem in Mexico and Central America, these forests only occur at specific elevations. Birds of western coniferous forests like Olive-sided Flycatchers and Hermit Warblers winter here, along with the endangered Golden-cheeked Warbler, a Texas breeder.
Many people think of beaches, but Caribbean islands are also home to forests vital to migratory birds like Bicknell’s Thrush and Black-throated Blue Warbler. Both species return to breed in the northeastern United States and Canada, with Bicknell’s Thrush occupying a very small range of coniferous forest.
Golden-winged Warbler is one of many priority birds that winter in these forests. Many Golden-wings make an incredible migration to the Great Lakes region for the breeding season, returning to the Central and South American Highlands in the fall. Cerulean and Canada Warblers are two other species that share these wintering grounds.
In a trip of several thousand miles, the Bobolink travels from grasslands and fields in interior South America to the northern United States and southern Canada to breed. After breeding, Bobolinks use freshwater marshes and coastal areas to molt before making the return trip south.