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Spring Migration Causes 2 Billion Birds To Cross Gulf Of Mexico, Says Study

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A new study indicates that an average of 2.1 billion birds migrates through the Gulf of Mexico each spring. The findings also revealed that the highest activity, with 26,000 birds per kilometer, occurs along the western coast of Texas.   ( Kyle Horton | Cornell Lab of Ornithology )

A new study shows that migration occurs between the months of early March and May end, with peak movement between mid-April and early May.

Scientists explain that quantifying the migration intensity and timing of movement is necessary to understand the impact of climate change and shifting landscapes on migratory birds.

The most crucial findings of the study are the fact that at least half of yearly migration happens within a period of 18-days. This information, researchers suggest, can help mitigate the harm to bird populations caused as a result of wind turbines and light.

Spring Bird Migration

The study combined data from bird watchers and weather radar stations to provide detailed understanding into spring bird migration along the Gulf of Mexico. The findings of the study, which was published in the journal Global Change Biology, reveal the timing, location, and intensity of these movements.

"We looked at data from thousands of eBird observers and 11 weather radar stations along the Gulf Coast from 1995 to 2015," said lead author Kyle Horton, an Edward W. Rose postdoctoral fellow at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

According to their calculations, an average of 2.1 billion birds crosses the length of Gulf Coast in the spring season as they head towards their breeding grounds in the north, Horton explained.

The radar helped reveal the timing of bird migration and the routes they take. Researchers found that the peak spring migration remained consistent for over two decades along the Gulf coastline and the period between April 19 and May 7 is the busiest.

Criticality Of Migration Timing

Scientists explained that even though the migration has evolved due to climate change, the current rate of change may be too brisk for the birds to keep up. The findings also show that seasonal movements now commence sooner. However, the peak activity has remained unchanged with regard to the change in seasonal movements, which may be an alarming trend.

"If birds aren't changing their migration timing fast enough to match the timing for plants and insects, that's alarming," Horton said.

These findings offer crucial standards in which the scientists can evaluate the long-term impact of climate change on migratory birds.

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