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A Bird's Eye View of Deforestation

Deforestation Destroys Vast Areas of Migratory Bird Habitat

Deforestation is one of the most dramatic land uses affecting migratory birds because it changes or removes entire regions of ecosystems and habitats.  From a bird’s eye view, the impact of land use on tropical forests is unmistakable. As many migrating birds fly to and from tropical regions each year, they find larger areas of forest have been removed.

After birds have flown for weeks and thousands of kilometres across entire continents, their rainforest destinations from the year before can be degraded, severely damaged or cease to exist altogether.


Tropical rainforests are the final destinations for many migratory birds that breed in both the northern and southern hemispheres including 180 species that fly from North America each year. They rely on rainforests in equatorial regions to provide food and shelter which their breeding grounds cannot do during the colder months.

The most well known example of changing use of rainforest land is the Amazon in South America. In the last 50 years alone, an area the size of Texas has been converted into grazing and agricultural land. It is estimated that at current rates of deforestation, the Amazon may be completely transformed due to changing land use by the end of the century. 

Large scale deforestation in rainforests such as in the Amazon threatens the very reasons many birds make dangerous migrations each year. It is not uncommon for migrating birds to lose 30% of their body weight while making annual migrations and after such long journeys, the loss of their wintering grounds can have a devastating effect. They rely heavily on the extremely productive and complex rainforest ecosystems for food, rest and recovery. 


Continuing Amazon Deforestation

Demand for Beef, Soybeans and Farmland Drives the Continued Clearing of Rainforest

Local agriculture and world demand for beef and soy are the main reasons Amazonian deforestation continues and many industries rely on the rainforest to survive as well as thousands of poor local farmers.

Cattle ranches completely clear vast areas of rainforest to provide grasslands for livestock. Similarly, large scale farms producing soybeans, a main ingredient in livestock feed, cut large growing fields from the forest.

Thousands of local poor farmers live on the edge of - and depend on - the Amazon and each year they clear small fields for subsistence [small-scale] agriculture. These small crop fields break up and fragment the seamless expanses of rainforest, slowly changing and degrading its habitats. 

The poor quality of soil in rainforests further perpetuates the cycle of deforestation. Without the continuous nutrients and protection of the dense forest, many of the soil’s nutrients are washed away within a few years. Consequently, the soil can no longer support agriculture or livestock.

The result is a continuous cycle of deforestation as farmers and ranchers perpetually seek new and fertile soil by clearing the forest. 


Interactive Migratory Bird Range Maps 

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology's Neotropical Birds Interactive Range MapsSee what migratory birds in your area migrate to Central and South American rainforests using the The Cornell Lab of Ornithology's Neotropical Birds Interactive Range Maps or check out these examples: Red-eyed VireoPurple MartinBlackpoll Warbler


A Bird's Eye View of Deforestation

Explore Google Maps

See "a Bird's Eye View" of deforestation in Brazil on the WMBD Event Google Map: Undamaged rainforest next to wide scale land use, small scale forest fragmentation and degradation, bunring plots of rainforest 



Register a WMBD Event

Register a WMBD event to raise awareness about the effects of deforestation on migratory birds in your area and receive WMBD posters and stickers to support your event.