Public website reveals the best photos of hundreds of bird migrations

Each winter, the snowy owl’s piercing yellow eyes and deadly hunting skills in the Midwestern United States awe bird lovers.

Now, thanks to what is known as the most comprehensive summary of migration patterns ever assembled, those birders can see where the raptors migrated from: the Seal River basin in northern Manitoba. .

“We didn’t know that.

“We didn’t know Midwest-bound owls were passing through the Seal River.”

Combining millions of observations on hundreds of bird species, Explorer is full of such connections and amazing discoveries that connect countries and continents.

That warbler in your backyard might be heading from the Bering Strait of Alaska to the Amazon rainforest. I can do it.

“Never before has there been so much migratory bird tracking information in one place,” says Wells.

Explorer is the result of four years of work and millions of dollars.

We use over 500 peer-reviewed studies from 283 institutions. It draws on decades of wild bird tagging data from agencies such as the Canadian Wildlife Service and tracking data from hundreds of birds with embedded transceivers.

We have received input from states and localities, six governments, nine large environmental groups, and several private companies. It incorporates millions of observations from thousands of birdwatchers across the continent through the online portal eBird.

For each of the 458 species, users of the free, public website can see where the bird they’re watching has gone, where it’s going, and who it’s going with. They can see its conservation status and what threats it faces at any point along its migration path. Or you can see the big picture and marvel at the winged rivers that cut across the continent.

Conservation planners can use this to identify critical habitats instead of flipping through academic papers or asking colleagues for data.

“I’ve been doing it for years,” said Wells. “You always piece it together and draw rough generalizations.

“This is truly groundbreaking.”

But perhaps Explorer’s most important feature is stories about connections. Bird-lovers in Edmonton will find bird companions traveling from the neck of the forest all the way to Peru. Eight species migrate annually between Toronto and Cuba.

Birds are one way that human activity in one place can affect places far away, says Stuart Mackenzie of Ornithology Canada.

“It highlights the complexity of the systems we are trying to understand and save, and the importance of connectivity. We cannot take a transnational approach to conservation.”

It also allows planners to link different species.

“If all 20 species are affected by the same threat, we can deal with that threat once instead of 20,” Mackenzie said.

Then there’s the sheer coolness of it, Mackenzie said.

“There are also big Oh element“I have Arctic birds in my backyard and they’re overwhelmed!”

“That level of engagement, even at the most basic level, is very important when we are trying to protect the environment and our species.”

The tool also reveals information gaps. This helps researchers trying to make the most of their resources.

Even after devoting his life to ornithology, Wells says he learns something when he opens Explorer.

“Every time you open it, there’s something new. You can see the connection between your place and the rest of the world.”

The website is online at

Bob Weber

canadian press