This article relies largely or entirely on a single source. (April 2009)
The Atlantic Flyway is a major north-south flyway for migratory birds in North America. The route generally starts in Greenland, then follows the Atlantic coast of Canada, then south down the Atlantic Coast south to the tropical areas of South America and the Caribbean. Every year, migratory birds travel up and down this route following food sources, heading to breeding grounds, or travelling to overwintering sites.
This route is used by birds typically because no mountains block most of this path, though birds cross the northern, central and southern Appalachians to join the flyway. Good sources of water, food, and cover exist over its entire length. The warm climates found in the southern portion of the region are home to many northern birds in winter, while in summer the East Coast is home to many bird species from South America.
Along the Atlantic Flyway, there are many key sites that migratory birds use to gather to bread, feed, or rest for certain periods. Some species may remain in these rest stops for the entire season, but most continue to move on.
- Notable locations include:
- Acadia National Park, Maine. The park preserves about half of Mount Desert Island, many adjacent smaller islands, and part of the Schoodic Peninsula on the coast of Maine. A total of 215 bird species, including migratory birds, are present at some time during the year. An additional 116 species are possibly present but unconfirmed, making a total of 331 potential species.
- Assateague Island National Seashore, Virginia. Protected area on a long barrier island off the coast of Maryland and Virginia. It’s known for its Atlantic beaches and for trails that wind through marshland, dunes and pine forest. In the south, Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge is home to wild Chincoteague ponies, bald eagles and thousands of migratory seabirds.
- Cape Cod National Seashore, Massachusetts. Migratory birds can be found along the 40 miles of public beach and sand dunes.
- Cape Hatteras National Seashore, North Carolina. Cape Hatteras is a wind-swept barrier islands along the North Carolina coast, much of it protected from development. The 75-miles of towering sand dunes, marsh, and forests provide great bird viewing year-round.
- Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge, South Carolina. Established in 1932 as a haven for migratory birds, Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge is additionally managed for the protection of threatened and endangered species such as the loggerhead sea turtle and wood stork.
- Delaware Bay, Delaware, Delaware Bay, an estuary of the Delaware River that slices between New Jersey and Delaware and heads into the Atlantic Ocean. In late April horseshoe crabs begin spawning along the coastline. During this time, hundreds of thousands of shorebirds flock to area beaches and marshes to feed on eggs after unsuspecting female horseshoe crabs have buried them in the sand. One species in particular to look out for during this annual looting is the red knot, a threatened shorebird known for conquering one of the longest migration routes of any species—more than 9,000 miles from the southern tip of South America to the Canadian Arctic. Other birds such as sandpipers, sanderlings and ruddy turnstone are also present.
- Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, Florida. Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge in Titusville, is recognized as having one of the most diverse wildlife habitats in North America. In January, the area hosts the annual Space Coast Birding and Wildlife Festival, which is the largest of its kind in the country. Birders from all over USA flock to the area en masse to get a look at migrating waterfowl and all manner of shorebirds along Black Point Wildlife Drive.
- Dry Tortugas National Park, Florida. Located about 70 miles west of Key West in the Gulf of Mexico, Dry Tortugas National Park is preserved tropical island reached by ferry that offers the rare sight of thousands of Sooty terns and Brown noddies nesting on Bush Key.
- J.N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge, Florida. Year-round Florida bird watching and wildlife viewing is terrific on Sanibel Island. Amid towering coconut palms and white sand, bird watchers can drive around the 4-mile Wildlife Drive and see Roseate spoonbills, Gray kingbirds, and Mangrove cuckoos.
- North American Migration Flyways via Wayback Machine (birdnature.com)
- Atlantic Flyway (Audubon)
- Waterfowl management (Flyways.us)
- Shorebirds (atlanticflywayshorebirds.org)
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