The birds of the Pacific Flyway depend on a diverse chain of habitats, from Arctic tundra and northwestern rainforest to tropical beaches and mangroves. Audubon’s network of chapters, volunteers, activists, and members is preserving and restoring these vital links along the way.
Each year at least a billion birds migrate along the Pacific Flyway, which stretches from the North Slope of Alaska to Central and South America. But these birds are only a fraction of those that used the flyway a century ago. Some species are in serious trouble, and even many common birds, have become far less common. Habitat loss, water shortages due to diversion for agriculture and development, diminishing food sources, and climate change all threaten the birds of the Pacific Flyway.
Spanning Mountains, Plains, Deserts, and Coast
The central Flyway extends from the grasslands of the Great Plains, the heartland’s wetlands and rivers, and the majestic Rocky Mountains to the western Gulf Coast. Many of its migratory bird species winter in Central and South America; some migrate across the Western Hemisphere as far north as the Arctic Circle and others south to Patagonia, in southern South America. To survive these arduous journeys, they rely on stopover habitat all along the flyway.
Habitat loss and degradation threaten birds of the Central Flyway. Water diversions and development are taking a toll on riparian and wetland habitats that many birds, including the critically endangered Whooping crane, rely on each spring. Energy exploration and extraction has fragmented sagebrush landscapes of the intermountain West, with grim consequences for dependent wildlife. Grassland birds and habitat are vanishing at an alarming rate as native prairie is erased by agricultural and urban development.
Tracing North America’s Great Rivers and Crossing the Gulf
Nearly half of North America's bird species, and about 40 percent of its waterfowl, spend at least part of their lives in the Mississippi Flyway. Extending north to Canada’s tundra and boreal forest, this much-traveled flyway includes the vast Mackenzie River watershed and then traces the mighty Mississippi River through America’s heartland to the Gulf Coast and continues south as far as Patagonia.
The Mississippi river and its vibrant grasslands, forests, and wetlands have been compromised by a century of misguided management. All along its length, the river has been controlled and manipulated to the detriment of natural systems and the birds and other wildlife that depend on them. The upper river is governed by a series of dams and locks; the lower river is channeled by more than 1,600 miles of levees. Together these structures confine the Mississippi to less than 10 percent of its original floodplain, and the sediment that historically fed the river's vast delta in Louisiana no longer reaches marshes and coastal forests. As a result, 19 square miles of delta wetlands disappear each year.
On the Wing from Labrador to Tierra del Fuego
The Atlantic Flyway encompasses some of the hemisphere’s most productive ecosystems, including forests, beaches, and coastal wetlands. From the Northern Atlantic coast and through the Caribbean to South America, Audubon is working to support this avian superhighway's 500-plus bird species and millions of individual birds.
Forty percent of the Atlantic Flyway’s bird species are species of conservation need. With only one-tenth of the U.S. landmass, this flyway is home to one-third of the nation's people. And dense population carries with it many challenges for birds and habitat: development and sprawl, incompatible agriculture, overfishing, and climate change.