Migratory bird pathways and the Gulf of Mexico: Importance of Louisiana's coast

Fact Sheet 2005-3069
By:  and 



Because of its geographic position, Louisiana plays an important role in the hemispheric-scale phenomenon known as the Nearctic-Neotropical bird migration system. Each year millions of landbirds migrate across or near to the coast of the Gulf of Mexico. Birds migrate in large, broad fronts that sometimes exceed 2 million individuals, and there is an advantage for them to take a direct north-south route (the shortest distance).

  • During migration seasons, nearly all of the migratory landbird species of the eastern United States, as well as many western species, use the coastal plains of the western gulf.
  • Spring migrants arrive with depleted energy reserves and depend on Louisiana's coastal habitats to provide food and cover after long gulf crossings.
  • Fall migrants depend on Louisiana’s coastal habitats for food to store fat reserves just prior to gulf crossings in autumn.
  • Mortality during the migratory period can be high. Recent research on the black-throated blue warbler (Dendroica caerulescens) indicates that more than 85% of the annual mortality for the species occurs during migration.

Migrants en route tend to concentrate in habitats adjacent to ecological barriers; DOI land managers need to identify key coastal landscape features that are important to these birds.

Because of the vastness of the North American continent, it is nearly impossible to delineate movement patterns and migration pathways by using traditional ground-based surveys.

Publication type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Title Migratory bird pathways and the Gulf of Mexico: Importance of Louisiana's coast
Series title Fact Sheet
Series number 2005-3069
DOI 10.3133/fs20053069
Year Published 2005
Language English
Publisher U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location Reston, VA
Contributing office(s) National Wetlands Research Center
Description 1 p.
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