Nebraska Cooperative Fish & Wildlife Research Unit


Date of this Version



Published in USGS Fact Sheet 2009-3038 (2009)


To learn how migrating birds determine where to stop and find food, scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey, Northern Arizona University, and The University of Arizona studied the behavior of 28 species of neotropical migrant songbirds—warblers, flycatchers, tanagers, and vireos—along the lower Colorado River from 2001 to 2004. They found that, like interstate travelers greeted by restaurant billboards, songbirds flying over Cibola National Wildlife Refuge, Arizona, relied on the flowering of honey mesquite (Prosopis glandulosa) to detect the availability of insects that they prey on. Understanding where and why migrant birds stop will help land managers better protect key habitats used by these tiny travelers.