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Follow favorite backyard birds around the world with new migration app

By Emily Bowles

Migratory birds may be flying south for the winter, but Wisconsin birdwatchers, take heart.

Audubon recently launched its virtual Bird Migration Explorer app that makes it easier than ever to check in with feathered friends as they make their way south.

According to Tom Prestby, Conservation Manager for Wisconsin at Audubon Great Lakes, the Bird Migration Explorer will be a game changer for avid birdwatchers.

“The Bird Migration Explorer puts migration tracking technology and research in one accessible and interactive location,” he said. “It reveals insights about the journeys of individual species, the connectedness, through migratory birds, of any given location in the hemisphere, and also details how migratory birds encounter 19 different conservation challenges.”

The free app is available at explorer.audubon.org/home.

It was created through a collaboration between the Audubon Society and nine partner organizations and includes information on more than 450 species of migratory birds.

Screenshot of the free Audubon Bird Migration Explorer that harnesses migration tracking technology to follow more than 450 species of birds as they travel the world.

At least 100 of these species connect to Northeast Wisconsin, so birdwatchers can use the tool to determine when these birds will fly over our region while also seeing the complicated journeys they take.

Connected to the world
Area birds connect Northeast Wisconsin to more than 20 other countries and territories, including the Arctic Circle.

The app includes a searchable map based on species and location.

Plus, the platform includes conservation challenges – snapshots of how human actions are affecting birds as well as broader environmental trends.

Interactivity is another bonus, Prestby said.

“You’ll be able to click on any bird or any location in Wisconsin to learn details of the journey that bird undergoes and specific obstacles it faces,” Prestby said.

This makes it an ideal gateway for new birders too.

“With just the click of a mouse, they can discover the magnificence of migratory birds, the challenges they face, and efforts to conserve them – including steps anyone can take to help birds.”

These action steps are more critical now than ever before, said Dr. Jill Deppe, senior director of Audubon’s Migratory Bird Initiative.

“Populations are facing steep declines across the board. By consolidating and visualizing this data, the Bird Migration Explorer can teach us more about how to protect these incredible travelers that connect people across the entire hemisphere,” Deppe said.

Marshall Johnson, chief conservation officer for the National Audubon Society, agreed. “The Bird Migration Explorer makes it plain to see how connected we are by these incredible birds,” Johnson said. “It’s clearer than ever that we have a collective responsibility and opportunity across the hemisphere to protect these birds and the places they need, today and tomorrow.”

Fascinating stories
These global issues touch us locally in profound ways.

Prestby believes that by visualizing and highlighting where birds are when they’re wintering, we’ll remain attuned to them – wherever they are – which doesn’t only benefit the birds.

“Our hope is that this tool will connect more people to nature and birds, while bringing awareness to the places birds need, and the conservation challenges they face,” Prestby said. “We know that birds and nature have many benefits. A growing body of scientific evidence increasingly links exposure to nature – and specifically, exposure to birds – with improved well being and happiness,” he said. “In a world with a lot of distraction and increasing negativity, bird watching gets you outside in nature, which improves mental and physical health. These birds, like the American Golden-Plover which migrate from almost the tip of South America to the Arctic tundra every year, and stop in Wisconsin on the way, have incredibly fascinating stories, and becoming familiar with them is awe-inspiring.”

Whether you’re outside observing them or online tracking them, the birds that spend part of their year in Wisconsin link us all to a broader world of nature while also enhancing our immediate environments, he said.

Point, click, and take flight.

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