Migratory Birds

Red-winged blackbirds flying over Bosque del Apache Refuge in New Mexico.
Kentucky Warbler
Credit: 2006 Michael Allen McDowell

The Fish and Wildlife Service is the lead federal agency for managing and conserving migratory birds in the United States. Conservation of migratory birds is often considered the central connecting theme of the National Wildlife Refuge System. More than 200 National Wildlife Refuges have been established specifically to provide breeding or wintering habitat for migratory birds. More than one million acres of wetlands on 356 refuges and more than 3,000 waterfowl production areas are actively managed for the benefit of waterfowl and other birds.

State-of-the-art waterfowl management is being practiced on many refuges. The Service strategically located many refuges and all of its waterfowl production areas along the north-south flyways used by waterfowl on their annual fall migration (Atlantic, Mississippi, Central, Pacific).

Migratory bird management also includes 700 non-game species of colonial waterbirds, birds of prey, shorebirds, seabirds and songbirds. Refuges also participate in the development of broad conservation strategies through flyway plans, the North American Waterfowl Management Plan, Partners in Flight, the National Shorebird Plan and the Western Hemispheric Shorebird Reserve Network.

National Wildlife Refuges are also ideal destinations for birders. Many of the almost 40 million annual visits to refuges are from casual or avid birders. Refuges often host birding festivals, special events and educational programs for beginning and advanced birders. In 2008, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service signed a memorandum of understanding with the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology to promote birding, habitat conservation and citizen science. Numerous refuges have also been designated Important Birding Areas by the Audubon Society.