What we found
Our analysis suggests that areas close to the Great Lakes shorelines are important stopover sites for all groups of birds, including landbirds, shorebirds and waterfowl. Landbirds are most concentrated within a few miles of the shoreline, migrating waterfowl are most common in nearshore shallow waters of the Great Lakes, and a number of shorebirds use Great Lakes shorelines disproportionately to other habitats. For all bird groups, relatively extensive areas of habitat seem to be used more than smaller areas of habitat except for landbirds where small areas of habitat surrounded by development harbor high densities of birds. Check out the Map Tool to explore the results.
Who was involved
The Nature Conservancy collaborated with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, many conservation organizations, universities, and corporations to predict the relative importance of different areas as stopover sites near Lakes Michigan, Huron, Erie and Ontario, and conntecting waters, to create this web portal. The Upper Midwest and Great Lakes Landscape Conservation Cooperative of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service supported development of the predictive model and this website.
This web portal reflects the contributions of many partners, beginning with articulation of stopover models in the western Lake Erie basin of Ohio and Michigan, and continuing with development of models in Chicago Wilderness; Great Lakes basins of Wisconsin; Saginaw Bay, Michigan; Lake Huron, Erie and Ontario regions of Ontario; and the Lake Ontario watershed of New York. The many people who provided expertise in developing these models, and those who applied the models to work on the ground, have directly and indirectly shaped the content and organization of the web portal. We are also very grateful to the researchers who have studied stopover sites and made their information available to us through publications and personal communication.
We gratefully acknowledge the efforts of workshop participants who critiqued the functionality and content of a draft web portal during a workshop held in 2013. These collaborators include Amanda Conover (Ohio Bird Conservation Initiative), Julie Craves (University of Michigan-Dearborn), Kim Grveles (Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources), Ron Huffman (Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge), Kevin Joyce (Black Swamp Conservancy, OH), Rob Krain (Black Swamp Conservancy, OH), Sarah Mabey (Hiram College, OH), Judy Pollock (Audubon Chicago Region), Bradly Potter (Upper Midwest/Great Lakes Landscape Conservation Cooperative), George Raber (University of Southern Mississippi), Matt Shackelford (DTE Energy), and Mark Shieldcastle (Black Swamp Bird Observatory). The website is currently hosted by the University of Southern Mississippi.
What we plan to do next
Characterizing suitable stopover habitat and then making the information widely available are important initial steps toward conservation of migratory birds. We will incorporate results from this study into other planning and implementation conservation efforts, such as LaMPs and other basinwide planning projects (TNC’s blueprints), to ensure that the study is used to enhance survivorship of birds migrating through the Great Lakes region and the quality of life for residents of the Great Lakes region.
What we hope you will do next
Use our maps of predicted stopover sites, underlying data layers, and analysis tools to rank and compare stopover sites for conservation or restoration, and get help doing so. Download our data predicting stopover habitat throughout the region, and find out more about how they were produced. Tap into other resources needed to make conservation decisions, such as links to other relevant data sources for your area of interests and information on what other groups are working on. See these maps and data in action and understand how others are using them. And then add your story to our website by contacting us to let us know how to link to your work on our Resources and/or Action pages. Help us keep this portal current and vibrant by sharing your experiences and knowledge! And please share this portal with others you think might find it useful.
Important things to keep in mind when using the maps
When using maps produced with this project to identify potential stopover habitat, users should keep in mind the following: 1) the maps only take into account landscape variables that we incorporate within a GIS framework because fine detail about vegetation composition and structure were not available throughout the region, 2) there are errors in the land cover data bases used, 3) we used a minimum sized area of approximately 2.5 acres (1 ha) to describe habitat and so areas of habitat smaller than 2.5 acres may not be depicted in our maps, and 4) our maps emphasize distribution of spring migrants rather than fall migrants because more data were available to describe stopover sites used in spring compared to fall.