Small woodlots on Lake Michigan's shore serve as Fire Escape type stopover sites, photo by Luke Wuest

Harrington Beach State Park represents a Convenience Store stopover site, photo by Luke Wuest

Migratory Birds find a Full Service Hotel stopover at Peninsula State Park, photo by Luke Wuest

What Are Stopover Sites?

Migratory birds use an array of sites, called ‘stopover sites’, when they migrate from wintering to breeding grounds in the spring and from breeding to wintering grounds in the fall.  These sites are critical to survival during migration, including sites not often thought of as having conservation value.  Ornithologists recognize these different types of sites and creatively categorize them as Fire Escapes, Convenience Stores, and Full-service Hotels.

Fire Escapes are sites such as a city park or a fragmented forest on an island in Lake Michigan that may receive less use because they are resource-poor, yet they are vital during times of stress as places for migrants to seek shelter from predators or storms.

Convenience Stores are areas with intermediate amounts of resources, typically larger in size than a Fire Escape, such as a county park.  These sites are used occasionally or regularly and allow migrants to replenish enough energy stores to continue on to their next stop. 

Full-service Hotels are extensive, intact areas that are rich in resources and contain a diversity of habitat types that provide abundant food, water, and shelter to large numbers of birds on a consistent basis.  Examples of Full-service Hotels include a state or national park, national wildlife refuge or state wildlife area.  All three types of stopover sites must be protected if we are to establish a network of sites that spans the Great Lakes region and beyond.