Who are we? Delta Wind Birds is a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting migratory bird habitat through partnerships with private landowners, fostering ecotourism and economic growth around observation of migratory birds, and raising awareness of bird migration and migratory habitat. Our primary focus is on shorebirds (or “wind birds”) in the Mississippi River Delta, although many other species benefit from the habitat of the wind birds, including ducks, herons, egrets, ibises, spoonbills, and terns. To learn more about our board of directors, click here. Delta Wind Birds partners closely with Strawberry Plains Audubon Center.
Rationale. Shorebirds are some of the most spectacular migrants in the world with many making an annual round-trip from the Arctic Circle to southern South America, and nearly half of all North American shorebird species currently face declining populations1. For conservation to be effective for migratory shorebirds, efforts are required at northern breeding grounds, southern wintering areas, and migration stopover locations along the interior2, which provide crucial opportunities for rest and refueling during the sometimes epic migrations. As many of these birds may fly a thousand miles nonstop before descending exhausted for refreshment, survival often depends on readily available habitat and food sources along major migratory routes such as the Mississippi flyway. Our primary goal is to promote the creation and protection of high quality habitats for migratory shorebirds stopping over in the Mississippi River Alluvial Valley (or Delta) through partnerships with private landowners. In addition, we aim to foster appreciation of these and other birds through educational workshops and field trips, and to promote ecotourism in Delta communities around appreciation of shorebirds and other birds.
Shorebird habitat in the Delta. The Delta lies along the eastern edge of the Mississippi Flyway and was historically a vast forested wetland. Agricultural development of the region has dramatically reduced wetland habitat, but much of the modern agricultural landscape can easily provide attractive stopover habitat for migratory shorebirds, often within the framework of normal agricultural production practices. Furthermore, protected habitat on public lands represents only a very small fraction of the landscape, leaving migratory stopover habitat highly fragmented and likely insufficient for the long-term viability of many North American shorebird species1. The key to conservation of long-distance migratory shorebirds, therefore, lies in the development of partnerships with private landowners to provide seasonal migratory habitat within the operation of modern agriculture.
Our habitat program. “In 2016, we contracted with two different private landowners, providing approximately 100 acres of high-quality habitat for fall migratory shorebirds in Humphreys County, Mississippi,” says Delta Wind Birds Board member Nicholas Lund. “Our on-the-ground surveys allowed us to estimate that this habitat was used by upwards of 9,000 migratory shorebirds, plus hundreds of wading birds, including herons, egrets, Wood Storks, and Roseate Spoonbills.” The DWB Habitat Incentive Program takes advantage of infrastructure already in place on private land to create moist-soil and shallow-water habitats for migratory shorebirds, which are among the most threatened groups of North American birds. Costs of the program have been primarily offset by individual donations, as well as grants or donations from other organizations such as Patagonia, the Memphis chapter of the Tennessee Ornithological Society, the Hummer Bird Study Group, and Audubon Mississippi.
For more photos of our habitat and educational activities, visit our Flickr page here.
1Andres et al., 2012. Population estimates of North American shorebirds. Wader Study Group Bulletin, 119(3):172-194.
2Skagen, 2006. Migration stopovers and the conservation of arctic-breeding Caladrine sandpipers. The Auk, 123(2):313-322.