Many of North America’s migratory birds, especially Whooping and Sandhill Cranes and waterfowl like the Redhead, rely on the Central Flyway’s diverse marsh and wetland habitats for their spring and fall journeys. That migration corridor is shaped like an hourglass: wide at the northern end of the flyway, it narrows in the middle as it passes through Nebraska, then widens again as it passes through Oklahoma and Texas. Each point of this migration corridor presents unique conservation challenges—challenges that Audubon can address.
In the Dakotas, both on-the-ground conservation strategies and targeted energy-policy work have the potential to positively impact millions of acres. These vast agricultural lands have major implications for many grassland- and wetland-dependent birds. Working with government agencies and private landowners in the Prairie Pothole region, Audubon is promoting collaborative solutions to some of the most critical issues facing birds in the region.
The migration corridor’s hourglass narrows to a “funnel” in Nebraska, at the Platte River, one of our nation’s most important spring migration staging areas for both Whooping and Sandhill Cranes (above). Audubon Nebraska and its partners, including Big Bend Audubon, have long been instrumental in restoring this key stopover site along the Central Flyway. Working with partners and volunteers, staff from Audubon’s Lillian Annette Rowe Sanctuary are restoring habitat and clearing nearly 14,000 acres of invasive phragmites, work that will open miles of the Platte River channel vital to nearly 80 percent of the population of Sandhill Cranes and important for other wildlife.
In addition to hands-on work to maintain this important river channel, Audubon builds community and national support for its restoration efforts through sustainable ecotourism. Each spring visitors from around the globe witness the amazing spectacle of the crane migration at the sanctuary’s Iain Nicolson Audubon Center. Emerging threats to the corridor include the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, and Audubon has mobilized its far-ranging network in opposition to the pipeline and its inherent dangers.
The migration corridor also includes precious prairie grasslands, among them 800 acres of native tallgrass prairie at the Spring Creek Prairie Audubon Center near Lincoln, Nebraska. Audubon is also leveraging additional conservation through collaborative efforts with the Mississippi Flyway on the Prairie Bird Initiative, an effort to work at landscape-scale geographies with beef producers and public agencies.
In Texas the migration corridor contains a wide range of rich habitats for birds, particularly along the Gulf of Mexico’s coastal plain—prime real estate for such resident coastal birds as the Reddish Egret and such long-distance migrants as the Red Knot. Audubon and the Houston Audubon Society manage a series of important island nesting colonies throughout South Texas’s 103-mile-long Laguna Madre, which includes 13,000 acres of the largest nesting colonies of Reddish Egrets and Roseate Spoonbills in the world. In collaboration with government agencies and other partners, Audubon is working to ensure the long-term preservation of this biologically unique and valuable region.
Partnership with other stakeholders is also instrumental in Audubon’s work to safeguard the health of Texas bays and estuaries, especially those feeding San Antonio and Aransas bays, the wintering home of the only wild flock of Whooping Cranes left in North America. Both the Mitchell Lake Audubon Center in San Antonio and the Trinity River Audubon Center in Dallas are introducing their diverse communities to the importance of protecting the watershed.
Theory of Victory: Audubon will protect the array of priority habitats and birds that shape the Central Flyway through a multi-pronged approach that engages our network and our partners all along the way. Together they will shape sound energy policy and address other threats.