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Winds aloft over three water bodies influence spring stopover distributions of migrating birds along the Gulf of Mexico coast

Citation

Clipp, Hannah et al. (2021), Winds aloft over three water bodies influence spring stopover distributions of migrating birds along the Gulf of Mexico coast, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.gxd2547mr

Abstract

Migrating birds contend with dynamic wind conditions that ultimately influence most aspects of their migration, from broad-scale movements to individual decisions about where to rest and refuel. We used weather surveillance radar data to measure spring stopover distributions of northward migrating birds along the northern Gulf of Mexico coast and found a strong influence of winds over non-adjacent water bodies, the Caribbean Sea and Atlantic Ocean, along with the contiguous Gulf of Mexico. Specifically, we quantified the relative influence of meridional (north-south) and zonal (west-east) wind components over the three water bodies on weekly spring stopover densities along western, central, and eastern regions of the northern Gulf of Mexico coast. Winds over the Caribbean Sea and Atlantic Ocean were just as, or more, influential than winds over the Gulf of Mexico, with the highest stopover densities in the central and eastern regions of the coast following the fastest winds from the east over the Caribbean Sea. In contrast, stopover density along the western region of the coast was most influenced by winds over the Gulf of Mexico, with the highest densities following winds from the south. Our results elucidate the important role of wind conditions over multiple water bodies on region-wide stopover distributions and complement tracking data showing Nearctic-Neotropical birds flying non-stop from South America to the northern Gulf of Mexico coast. Smaller-bodied birds may be particularly sensitive to prevailing wind conditions during non-stop flights over water, with probable orientation and energetic consequences that shape subsequent terrestrial stopover distributions. In the future, the changing climate is likely to alter wind conditions associated with migration, so birds that employ non-stop over-water flight strategies may face growing challenges.