Close to 300 species of migratory landbirds, whose combined populations represent more than one billion individuals, migrate between the Neotropics and North America. Migratory songbirds are important because they provide services such as pest control and seed dispersal, but many of these neotropical migrants have been experiencing concerning levels of population decline over the past few decades.
If we are to reverse this trend, we must understand the factors contributing to their decline – yet we still know nearly nothing about these species in their migratory environments. Of all the periods of the life cycle, migration is the least understood and, yet, at the same time it is when the majority of mortality occurs. To fill this critical gap in our knowledge of the needs of migratory birds, ADOPTA is assisting the Neotropical Flyway Project to identify migration routes, key stopover or staging regions where the energy for migration is obtained, and the relative quality of the different habitats used.
Although it’s only a small part of the total project, Panama is a unique location for this type of study. The narrow geography – about 50km (30) at the narrowest point – tends to concentrate migrants into larger groups than observed elsewhere, making observation and collection much easier. In addition, Panama is expected to be a point of arrival and departure for species that migrate directly through the Caribbean Sea. By using a variety of survey methods including transect, point, and feeding counts, over 250,000 individual birds have already been observed from over 60 species, including 14 species of concern. Although most species seem to be feeding solely on insects, some also use fruits to gather energy.
Bayly, N.J., Rosenberg, K.V., Easton, W.E., Gómez, C., Carlisle, J., Ewert, D.N., Drake, A. & Goodrich, L. (2017) Major stopover regions and migratory bottlenecks for Nearctic-Neotropical landbirds within the Neotropics: a review. Bird Conservation International 00:00-00.