Left: Photo provided by Indiana University — Adam Fudickar, director of the Kent Farm Banding Station at Indiana University, opens mist nets to catch birds.
Right: Photo provided by Indiana University — Adam Fudickar measures the tarsus of a migratory fox sparrow.
ADAM FUDICKAR received a bachelor’s and
master’s in biology from the University of Oklahoma.
He completed his Ph.D. in Germany at the Max
Planck Institute for Ornithology and the University of
Konstanz. He lives and works in Bloomington, Indiana,
where he is a biologist at Indiana University.
land to refuel. Locations along migratory corridors with abundant resources often
host hundreds of thousands of migratory birds in the spring and fall. The monsoon
season in July and August in the southwestern United States and Mexico results in
a staggering pulse in vegetation in the Sonoran Desert and the surrounding regions
in the late summer and early fall. Migratory birds that breed throughout the western
half of North America take advantage of the abundance during fall migration to
refuel. Refueling areas are critical for the survival of billions of migratory birds.
Other critical migration refueling sites in North America include the Copper River
Delta in southern Alaska, the prairie potholes in the U.S. and Canada, the Delaware
Bayshore, and the Gulf Coast. All of these locations support hundreds of thousands
of birds during migration.
In the spring, when birds that breed in the northern hemisphere migrate from
their winter homes in the south, birds track the wave of spring as it advances north.
Migrants essentially chase the food from south to north and then back south again
in the fall. Unfortunately, the availability of resources is becoming less predictable
for migratory birds at these fueling sites.
Fragmentation and destruction of breeding habitat, migration stopover sites,
and wintering habitat has been responsible for a marked decline in migratory
populations over the past century. International cooperation has been, and continues
to be, a critical step in ensuring the persistence of these animals. The Migratory Bird
Treaty Act, which was first enacted in 1916, was an early agreement between the
U.S. and other nations to secure the protection of migratory birds across political
boundaries. While the Migratory Bird Treaty Act protects the birds themselves, it is
increasingly important to protect the habitat that they need to survive.
Historically, due to the difficulty of tracking birds, it has been a challenge to
identify areas that need protection, but, as we have seen, that is changing. With
new discoveries, there is an increase in the importance of communication between
scientists, policymakers, and the public. Several organizations have stepped forward
to address this challenge. The Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center serves as a bridge
between politicians in D.C. and migratory biologists. State and federal wildlife
agencies are on the forefront of avian
conservation. At Indiana University,
I’ve been part of an effort to develop
a center that brings together experts
from environmental law, wildlife
management, and animal migration.
Although most of our efforts are in
very early stages, the potential impact
on conservation decisions has never
As a biologist, I’m driven to help
increase our understanding of how
changes in the environment impact
migratory birds. As a person with an
immense appreciation for the role
that migratory animals play on our
planet, I’m constantly looking for
ways to contribute to their persistence.
Everyone can help by supporting
conservation organizations and
politicians working to make positive
changes for the environment.