the tropics in winter. In South Carolina 47 percent, or 53 species, of our
nesting land birds are considered neotropical migrants.
They include such familiar birds as purple martins, ruby-throated
hummingbirds and whip-poor-wills but also less-well-known groups such as
warblers, vireos, tanagers, orioles, flycatchers and thrushes. Neotropical
migrants are among our most beautiful and musical birds.
"Neotropical migratory birds are facing a triple whammy," said Lex Glover,
wildlife biologist with the Wildlife Section of the S.C. Department of
Natural Resources (DNR). "Their habitat is being degraded on the breeding
grounds here in the United States, in the tropics where they spend the
winter, and on the migration corridors in between. So these birds are
getting hit coming, going and in the middle."
Neotropical migratory birds are highly sensitive to highways, powerlines,
urban sprawl and other development that subdivides and fragments habitats.
Other hazards include pesticide poisoning, especially on the wintering
grounds, and excess mortality from flying into tall buildings, windows and
tall towers, especially during migration.
Despite the litany of woes suffered by these birds at the hands of man,
Glover said there are many ways average citizens can help neotropical
● Drink "shade-grown coffee." Research shows these older-type coffee
plantations in the tropics support far more neotropical migrants in winter
than the newer "sun-grown" coffee plantations. Shade-grown coffee tastes
● Keep cats indoors. Unconfined cats kill millions of birds each year in the
● Support wise land-use practices and get involved in planning and zoning
issues that protect forests, fields, wetlands and other neotropical bird
● Support conservation organizations that protect bird habitat and conduct
monitoring, management, research and education programs. Some good ones
(most with state chapters) are The Nature Conservancy, National Wildlife
Federation, National Audubon Society, Sierra Club and the American Bird
Conservancy. Local land trusts in South Carolina actively protect
undeveloped land and other open space that protect birds.
● The creation of greenways, parks and forest and wetland corridors in urban
areas can help birds, especially during migration. Conserve native plant
communities and forests in home landscapes.
● Be aware of development projects in migration flyways such as tall towers,
buildings and other structures that may increase bird mortality.
Conservative estimates show that 100 million birds are killed annually in
the United States by flying into glass windows.
For a brochure or more information on South Carolina's neotropical
migratory birds, write Neotropical Migrants, DNR, PO Box 167, Columbia, SC
29202 or call wildlife biologist Lex Glover at (803)419-7747 in Columbia.
- Written by Greg Lucas -