(Clockwise from left) Bill Mueller, Milwaukee County Avian Migration Monitoring Partnership, Bill Smith and Owen Boyle (DNR) discuss local stopover sites at a 2006 workshop in Milwaukee

Developing Tools for Conservation

As urban development expands in coastal areas, public land becomes increasingly important for providing migrating birds places to stop, rest, and refuel.  Although some publicly owned lands in the Great Lakes basins support high concentrations of migratory birds during spring and fall, these properties may be degraded by invasive species that displace native plants migratory birds depend on for food and cover.  Stopover habitat quality may also decline due to habitat fragmentation, a lack of vertical or horizontal vegetation structure affecting food and cover availability, and an inadequate surface water depth and/or quality.

Recognizing the urgency of establishing a network of protected sites, the Wisconsin Stopover Initiative invited local wildlife professionals, birders and other experts to attend workshops in 2006 to identify migratory stopover sites, which they knew well.  These experts drew site boundaries on quadrangle maps and provided details about the habitats, surrounding land uses, and migratory bird uses at 223 migratory bird sites. 

Spatial GIS stopover habitat model indicating landbird priority habitat features at Peninsula State ParkThese data, combined with the literature and expert opinion, were used to construct spatial Geographic Information System (GIS) stopover habitat models that predict where migratory birds are likely to concentrate in each basin, thus helping to fill in gaps in our collective knowledge of Wisconsin’s stopover sites.

A 2011 report, Protecting Bird Migration Stopover Habitat in the Western Great Lakes, includes compiled and synthesized information on stopover sites in the Great Lakes basins of Wisconsin for five bird groups: landbirds, waterfowl, waterbirds, shorebirds, and raptors.  Specific objectives of this report were to: 1) identify migratory bird species of conservation priority in the Great Lakes basins of Wisconsin; 2) identify and rank important attributes of migratory bird stopover sites in the basins; 3) identify important stopover sites in the basins; 4) determine knowledge gaps and recommend actions to address data deficiencies; and 5) recommend and implement actions that will achieve protection of stopover sites and habitats in the basins.  It is our hope that this report will establish the significance of Great Lakes migratory stopover sites and provide a catalyst for their conservation. 

For access to the GIS stopover habitat spatial models for landbirds, shorebirds, and waterfowl/waterbirds, please send an email request to kim.grveles@wisconsin.gov.

See the Identified Sites page for a list of our top migratory bird concentration sites.