Mapping the Migratory Bird Flyways of the Americas

​Bird Genoscape Project

Learn more about the Bird Genoscape Project here.

Neotropical migratory birds are declining across the Western Hemisphere, but conservation efforts have been stalled by the inability to assess where migrants are most limited – the breeding grounds, migratory stopover points, or tropical wintering areas. Historically, efforts to correlate breeding, wintering, and migratory populations have relied on large – scale banding programs or small tracking devices, however, these efforts have met with limited success because recapture of small – bodied birds is rare. Thus, there is an urgent need for a tracking technology that is minimally invasive, reliable, and capable of characterizing migratory patterns on a broad scale.

CTR has developed a a high-resolution molecular tag for tracking migratory birds on hemispheric scales.  We are using this approach to create genetic maps, or “genoscapes” of 10 migratory bird species, and hope to expand to 100 species.

We are working with a variety of government and non-profit partners to expand the development of high-resolution molecular tags to species and populations of conservation concern across the Western Hemisphere. The resulting information can be used to help address current and future challenges facing migratory birds.




Alternative Energy and Biodiversity

A U.S. Department of Energy Funded Project to Understand the Demographic Impacts of Solar Energy Sites on Migratory Bird Populations Increased solar energy production is a critical element of efforts to limit anthropogenic climate change, however those same solar facilities may pose a risk to individual birds that migrate past them. While there are known...

bird genoscape project

Bird Genoscape Project

The Center for Tropical Research recently launched the Bird Genoscape Project, an effort to map the population-specific migratory routes of 100 species of migratory songbirds by harnessing the power of genomics.


Persistent impacts of West Nile virus on North American bird populations

George, T. L.; Harrigan, R. J.; LaManna, J. A.; DeSante, D. F.; Saracco, J. F.; Smith, T. B.

Published Work | 2015 | Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 112(46), 14290–14294

Convergent evolution of sunbird pollination systems of Impatiens species in tropical Africa and hummingbird systems of the New World

Janeček, S.; Bartoš, M.; Njabo, K. Y.

Published Work | 2015 | Biological Journal of the Linnaean Society 115(1), 127–133

Mapping migration in a songbird using high-resolution genetic markers

Ruegg, K. C.; Anderson, E. C.; Paxton, K. L.; Apkenas, V.; Lao, S.; Siegel, R. B.; DeSante, D. F.; Moore, F.; Smith, T. B.

Published Work | 2014 | Molecular Ecology 23(23), 5726–5739

Integrative tracking methods elucidate the evolutionary dynamics of a migratory divide

Alvarado, A. H.; Fuller, T. L.; Smith, T. B.

Published Work | 2014 | Ecology and Evolution 4(17), 3456–3469

A role for migration-linked genes in genomic islands in divergence of a songbird

Ruegg, K. C.; Anderson, E. C.; Boone, J.; Pouls, J.; Smith, T. B.

Published Work | 2014 | Molecular Ecology 23(19), 4757–4769

Novel statistical methods for integrating genetic and stable isotope data to infer individual-level migratory connectivity

Rundel, C. W.; Wunder, M. B.; Alvarado, A. H.; Ruegg, K. C.; Harrigan, R.; Schuh, A.; Kelly, J. F.; Siegal, R. B.; DeSante, D. F.; Smith, T. B.; Novembre, J.

Published Work | 2013 | Molecular Ecology 22(16), 4163–4176

Predicting bird song from space

Smith, T. B.; Harrigan, R. J.; Kirschel, A. N.; Buermann, W.; Saatchi, S.; Blumstein, D. T.; de Kort, S. R.; Slabbekoorn, H.

Published Work | 2013 | Evolutionary Applications 6(6), 865–874

Linking hydrogen (δ^2 H) isotopes in feathers and precipitation: Sources of variance and consequences for assignments to isoscapes

Hobson, K. A.; Van Wilgenburg, S. L.; Wassenaar, L. I.; Larson, K.

Published Work | 2012 | PLoS ONE 7(4)

Feather growth rate and mass in nearctic passerines with variable migratory behavior and molt pattern

Hera, I. D.; DeSante, D. F.; Milá, B.

Published Work | 2012 | The Auk 129(2), 222–230

Projected changes in elevational distribution and flight performance of montane neotropical hummingbirds in response to climate change

Buermann, W.; Chaves, J. A.; Dudley, R.; Mcguire, J. A.; Smith, T. B.; Altshuler, D. L.

Published Work | 2010 | Global Change Biology 17(4), 1671–1680

The prevalence of avian Plasmodium is higher in undisturbed tropical forests of Cameroon

Bonneaud, C.; Sepil, I.; Milá, B.; Buermann, W.; Pollinger, J.; Sehgal, R. N.; Valkiūnas, G.; Iezhova, T. A.; Saatchi, S.; Smith, T. B.

Published Work | 2009 | Journal of Tropical Ecology 25, 439–447

Ecomorphology of migratory and sedentary populations of the yellow-rumped warbler (Dendroica coronata)

Milá, B.; Wayne, R. K.; Smith, T. B.

Published Work | 2008 | Condor 110(2), 335–344

Recent postglacial range expansion drives the rapid diversification of a songbird lineage in the genus Junco

Milá, B.; McCormack, J. E.; Castenada, G.; Wayne, R. K.; Smith, T. B.

Published Work | 2007 | Proceedings of the Royal Society B 274(1626), 2653–2660

Postglacial population expansion drives the evolution of long-distance migration in a songbird

Milá, B.; Smith, T. B.; Wayne, R. K.

Published Work | 2006 | Evolution 60(11), 2403–2409

Speciation and rapid phenotypic differentiation in the yellow-rumped warbler (Dendroica coronata) complex

Milá, B.; Smith, T. B.; Wayne, R. K.

Published Work | 2006 | Molecular Ecology 16(1), 159–173

Divergence in mating signals correlates with ecological variation in the migratory songbird, Swainson’s thrush (Catharus ustulatus)

Ruegg, K.; Slabbekorn, H.; Clegg, S.; Smith, T. B.

Published Work | 2006 | Molecular Ecology 15(11), 1487–1494

Combining isotopic and genetic markers to identify breeding origins of migrant birds

Kelly, J.; Ruegg, K.; Smith, T. B.

Published Work | 2005 | Ecological Applications 15(5), 1487–1494

Molecular genetic approaches to linking breeding and overwintering areas in five neotropical migrant passerines

Smith, T. B.; Clegg, S. M.; Kimura, M.; Ruegg, K.; Milá, B.; Lovette, I.

Published Work | 2005 | Birds of Two Worlds: The Ecology and Evolution of Migration 223-231

Limited utility of mtDNA markers for determining connectivity among breeding and overwintering locations in three neotropical migrant birds

Lovette, I. J.; Clegg, S. M.; Smith, T. B.

Published Work | 2004 | Conservation Biology 18(1), 156–166

Stable isotopes as indicators of altitudinal distributions and movements in an Ecuadorean hummingbird community

Hobson, K. A.; Wassenaar, L. I.; Milá, B.; Lovette, I.; Dingle, C.; Smith, T. B.

Published Work | 2003 | Oecologia 136, 302–308

A call for feather sampling

Smith, T. B.; Marra, P. P.; Webster, M. S.; Lovette, I.; Gibbs, L.; Holmes, R. T.; Rohwer, S.

Published Work | 2003 | The Auk 120(1), 218–221

Phylogeographic approaches to assessing demographic connectivity between breeding and overwintering regions in a Nearctic-Neotropical warbler (Wilsonia pusilla)

Kimura, M.; Clegg, S. M.; Lovette, I. J.; Holder, K. R.; Girman, D. J.; Milá, B.; Wade, P.; Smith, T. B.

Published Work | 2002 | Molecular Ecology 11(9), 1605–1616

Not as the crow flies: a historical explanation for circuitous migration in Swainson’s thrush (Catharus ustulatus)

Ruegg, K.; Smith, T. B.

Published Work | 2002 | Proceedings of the Royal Society, London 269(1498), 1375–1381

Genetic evidence for the effect of a postglacial population expansion on the phylogeography of a North American songbird

Milá, B.; Girman, D.; Kimura, M.; Smith, T. B.

Published Work | 2000 | Proceedings of the Royal Society 267, 1033–1040