Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Traffic Along the Flyway

Thousands of species of birds partake in their yearly migration, be it for weather, food, or mating. Birds may migrate short or long distances; some birds only change altitude. The path along which birds migrate is called a flyway.

In the US, there are four flyways - Atlantic (along the east coast), Mississippi (following the longest river in the US), Central (east of the Rockies), and Pacific (along the west coast).  "As a matter of fact, in the region of Panama, parts of all four flyways merge into one." [1]

Flyways over the US (Source:

Their journey is remarkable. For example, the bird with the longest non-stop migration flight of any species is the Bar-tailed Godwit. This bird has been known to fly 11,000 km from Alaska to New Zealand. Their uninterrupted journey is fueled by stored body fat. [2]

While migration is a natural instinct in birds, many species have been threatened during their migrations by humans by hunting and building structures that interfere with their breeding grounds and flyways.

To better understand our feathered friends, a website called has been busy mapping bird migratory patterns. You can even view flyways by particular species viewing what they call STEM (Spatio-Temporal Exploratory Model) maps.

1. Bird Nature -
2. -


  1. I wonder if the airlines takes note of bird migration?

  2. Airlines don't pay much attention to bird migration patterns as birds rarely fly above 6,000 ft. However airports regularly participate in scaring birds away (firing shots, water cannons, etc.) to minimize the amount of bird strikes and damage to airplanes. During the drought in the summer 2011 in Dallas, DFW was unable to use its water cannons to deter birds and as a result, AA's planes took more bird strikes than usual.

    Still, the US Airways flight hit a flock of migrating geese...

  3. Is a metro/subway blog in the making?