Bird Migration Routes

Many North American birds come to the far northern regions of the continent in summer to reproduce and raise their young. Long summer days in the north produce an abundance of insects and plants for birds and their young to eat. Because this food is not available during cold, winter months, many birds migrate south to forage in warmer climates.

king eiders

These birds follow migratory routes, called flyways, between their northern breeding grounds and southern wintering areas. There are four major flyways in North America: the Pacific, Central, Mississippi and Atlantic Flyway.

lower 48 view of flywaysMaps of these flyways often show only the central portion of the North American continent. These maps provide no information about more northern areas.

The Refuge's information sheet "Which birds may travel from the Arctic Refuge to or through your area?" shows that birds breeding on the Arctic Refuge have ranges that reach all 50 states. Birds follow routes in all four flyways as they migrate between the Arctic Refuge and their southern wintering areas in these states.

The animated map below shows how portions of all four flyways overlap in the Arctic Refuge. This overlap connects the Refuge to bird-wintering areas throughout Canada, the lower 48 states and beyond. This map also shows examples of birds which use each of the flyways to and from the Arctic Refuge.

flyways in full animation

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