Stopover Habitat and Its Importance in the Conservation of Landbird Migrants

Conservation of neotropical landbird migrants will be compromised if attention is not focused on habitat requirements during migration. Habitat use during migration has profound consequences for a bird's (1) ability to satisfy energetic requirements, (2) vulnerability to predators, and (3) exposure to environmental stress. Largely correlative evidence indicates that landbird migrants select among available habitats on the basis of factors intrinsic to the habitat, such as food availability, habitat structure, and cover in relation to predation risk. Management decisions would be simplified if species could be grouped for the purpose of assessing en route habitat requirements, but our study of habitat use among neotropical landbird migrants along the northern coast of the Gulf of Mexico points to species-specific patterns of habitat use. On the other hand, many migrants display behavioral variability that may permit them to occupy different habitat types as well as respond to novel circumstances. It should be possible to evaluate the immediate consequences of such plasticity by measuring how effectively migrants satisfy energy demand during stopover in relation to habitat type.

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