Migratory Stopover Habitat

Audubon Great Lakes Launches Innovative Tool to Safeguard Migratory Birds in the Illinois Coastal Region

New data tool informs stopover conservation just in time for spring migration

CHICAGO (February 29, 2024) Audubon Great Lakes, a regional leader in conservation, announced the launch of a groundbreaking conservation tool designed to identify key regions within the Illinois coastal area critical for the management of habitat for migratory birds. The Illinois Coastal Stopover Tool is a new interactive technology and data tool that aims to provide valuable insights into migratory stopover habitat, offer habitat management recommendations, and raise awareness about the unique needs of birds during their migration journeys across the region.

"This tool is a game-changer in our efforts to conserve high-priority bird species at risk during their life cycle. By identifying key regions and providing actionable recommendations, we empower local land managers and communities to play an active role in preserving vital habitats for migratory birds," said Stephanie Beilke, Senior Manager of Conservation Science at Audubon Great Lakes.  

The Illinois coastal region, where the heavily urban Chicago metropolitan area intersects with Lake Michigan, stands as one of the most important and most dangerous stopover areas in North America for migratory birds. Threats such as buildings, light pollution, invasive species, and habitat loss pose significant challenges. Birds require crucial rest and refueling during their migration, both before and after crossing the Great Lakes, making the Great Lakes a major stopover region.  

"Spring and fall migration represent critical and highly vulnerable periods for hundreds of North American bird species and we have already lost nearly 3 billion of these breeding birds over the past five decades,” added Beilke. “Migratory stopover sites, where birds pause to rest and refuel, play a crucial role in bird conservation and understanding and effectively managing these stopover habitats are high priorities to mitigate threats facing birds like the Bobolink, a grassland bird that breeds in Chicago." 

Data from this tool was collected from a variety of sources including eBird abundance data, Great Lakes Joint Venture Migratory Landbird Priorities, and Audubon Important Bird Area and features interactive maps, priority species and locations and management resources. This data plays a crucial role in helping organizations at local, regional, levels make informed decisions about natural resources, man-made landscapes, and the environment.  

Highlights of the tool include interactive maps featuring protected areas with high quality habitat, opportunities for restoration, and potential threats for migratory bird stopover in the Illinois Coastal Region and a score-breakdown and management recommendations. Users can also explore 21 different high-priority migratory bird species like the Bay-breasted Warbler, the Bobolink, and Bell’s Vireo and includes a species overview, conservation listing, and habitat needs during migration. There are also resources and recommendations for land managers at the landscape-scale, local-scale, and for specific habitat types (woodland, grassland and shrubland) within the Illinois Coastal region.  

One priority habitat that Audubon suggests for improvement is the Calumet Marshes at Big Marsh and Park 565, representing two of the largest natural areas in the IL Calumet region. While both sites contain rare marsh habitat, they also contain a mixture of woodland, savanna, and grassland. Both sites contain a diverse assemblage of native species, but opportunities to enhance the habitat with the addition of more grassland and savanna species would make a big difference and a great benefit for migratory grassland and woodland birds. 

Recognizing the importance of collaborative efforts, Audubon Great Lakes is pleased to work with land managers across the region to offer these resources. Partners can leverage this innovative tool to enhance their habitat management strategies, contributing to the overall well-being of migratory birds.  
Audubon Great Lakes also encourages the public to engage with this tool, fostering a sense of shared responsibility for the conservation of migratory birds. As we strive to make the Chicago region safer for birds during their stopovers, this tool marks a significant step forward in our collective efforts for bird conservation,” added Beilke.  
The Illinois Coastal Stopover Tool is part of a larger Audubon Great Lakes restoration planning initiative funded by IL DNR Coastal Program and NOAA.   

To access, visit https://gl.audubon.org/landingmigratory-stopover-habitat/illinois-coastal-stopover-tool. You can also watch a webinar recording for more information: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1WigCcnDJyM 

About Audubon Great Lakes 

The National Audubon Society protects birds and the places they need, today and tomorrow. Audubon works throughout the Americas using science, advocacy, education and on-the-ground conservation. State programs, nature centers, chapters and partners give Audubon an unparalleled wingspan that reaches millions of people each year to inform, inspire and unite diverse communities in conservation action. A nonprofit conservation organization since 1905, Audubon believes in a world in which people and wildlife thrive. Audubon Great Lakes is a regional office of Audubon, learn more at gl.audubon.org 


Media ContactNicole Minadeo, nicole.minadeo@audubon.org , 419-308-4846  


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