FLORIDA — As millions of birds are flocking through Florida to reach their wintering grounds, the National Audubon Society and nine partner organizations announced on Sept. 15 the Bird Migration Explorer, a state-of-the-art digital platform that reveals migration data consolidated for 458 bird species found in the United States and Canada. The free, interactive platform, available in English and Spanish, allows users to see the most complete data collected on migratory species in their neighborhoods and where those birds go throughout the year.
The Bird Migration Explorer reveals insights about the journeys of individual species, the connectedness, through migratory birds, of any given location in the hemisphere, and also details on how migratory birds encounter 19 different conservation challenges.
What can users see?
Roseate Spoonbills in Florida have been studied, banded, and tracked by Audubon Florida scientists at the Everglades Science Center since the 1930s. Information from their cellular trackers – part of an innovative project initiated in 2020 - has been directly uploaded into the Bird Migration Explorer, allowing users to follow the movement of real birds as they forage and breed across the Sunshine State and into the Southeast.
The animations of migrating birds show how the birds of a hemisphere funnel through the narrow peninsula of Florida on their way south and north, giving our state an outsized importance to birds from Alaska to Argentina.
Data from Audubon Centers and Sanctuaries
Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary in Naples recently installed a brand-new Motus wildlife monitoring station. The monitoring receivers collect data from any birds wearing transmitters that pass within several miles. The data is automatically uploaded to a database where researchers can see the exact date and time when their tagged bird moved past the vicinity of a station.
In September, the station logged its first bird flights: three Purple Martins tagged in Delaware! The data provides land managers with information about birds’ seasonal habitat preferences, helping our staff learn more about the role the sanctuary plays as a stopover point or passage for migratory birds while filling knowledge gaps across the broader science community.
Data from these tracked birds appears in the Bird Migration Explorer, allowing scientists, birders, conservation enthusiasts, and interested community members to learn more about the birds that live and move through our neighborhoods and natural landscapes.
“People have always been curious and amazed by migratory birds and their incredible journeys, but only recently are scientists piecing together the full picture of how these birds travel from one end of the globe to the other,” said Dr. Jill Deppe, senior director of Audubon’s Migratory Bird Initiative, the founding organization of the Bird Migration Explorer. “Migratory birds also need our help — populations are facing steep declines across the board. By consolidating and visualizing these data, the Bird Migration Explorer can teach us more about how to protect these incredible travelers that connect people across the entire hemisphere.”
The Bird Migration Explorer brings together three types of geospatial bird data: abundance data from Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s eBird Status models; connectivity data from the USGS Eastern Ecological Science Center Bird Banding Lab and Bird Genoscape Project; and tracking data from Birds Canada, the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center and hundreds of researchers from across the globe, who generously contributed their datasets to this project. Audubon scientists and cartographers consolidated these data to create animated and interactive visualizations to bring species migration to life on a map.
The Bird Migration Explorer includes:
• Interactive, animated maps of the full annual migration for 458 species,
• More than 4.2 million point-to-point migratory bird connections across the hemisphere,
• Visualizations for 19 selected Conservation Challenges that migratory birds are exposed to throughout the year across the Americas..
The Bird Migration Explorer reflects an extraordinary partnership among science, conservation, and technology organizations and institutions and is made possible with data from the following partner organizations and more than 500 studies from researchers and institutions from around the world: Birds Canada, Bird Conservancy of the Rockies, Bird Genoscape Project, BirdLife International, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Esri, Georgetown University, Movebank, National Audubon Society,and Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center.
To learn more about migratory birds, the journeys they make, and the challenges they experience along the way, please visit the Bird Migration Explorer at: www.birdmigrationexplorer.org.