For the Birds: Migratory Bird Stopover Sites are Important for
Economic and Ecological Diversity in the Great Lakes
A Michigan birder enjoys a sunny day of spotting in a coastal wetland habitat. (Photo by Michael DL Jordan/USFWS)
The Nature Conservancy, in partnership with the Upper Midwest and Great Lakes LCC, recently launched the Great Lakes Migratory Bird Stopover Portal, an online database available to natural resources managers across the Great Lakes that identifies and projects important migratory bird stopover habitat for landbirds, shorebirds and waterfowl.
The portal was developed through a comprehensive study identifying and scoring attributes of areas that serve as and project important stopover sites within 15 of the shorelines of Lakes Michigan, Huron, Erie, and Ontario, and connecting water bodies in the U.S. and Canada.
The Great Lakes, particularly coastal and near-shore areas, provide globally important stopover sites for waterfowl, shorebirds, songbirds, hawks, owls and water birds, such as loons. Much of the Great Lakes coastal aquatic and terrestrial landscapes that once supported migrating birds has been lost or degraded, yet the region supports hundreds of millions of migrants during both spring and fall migration. In turn, the migrants attract more than 68,000 bird watchers each spring, to Ohio alone, from around the world where they contribute nearly $40 million annually to the local economy. Birders also flock to Point Pelee, Ontario; Whitefish Point, Michigan; and Tawas Point, Michigan among many other locations.
Coastal wetland restoration in Erie Marsh. (Photo by Jason Whalen/USFWS)
In the words of Jon Dunn, a leading North American birder, author and ecotourism leader, "my favorite place to bird in all of North America, is Tawas Point…on Lake Huron. This is one of the best-kept secrets in North America, but no doubt there are dozens of other spots along the lakeshores which must be nearly as good [for migration]."
The online portal is available to land-use planners, policy makers, land managers, conservationists and ecotourism entrepreneurs to call attention to and protect the hundreds of bird species that migrate through the Great Lakes region. Learn how corporations, non-governmental organizations and governmental agencies are already helping protect these important stopover sites by reading the case studies highlighted on the Great Lakes Migratory Bird Stopover Portal Web site.
-- Ashley Spratt