Patterns of nocturnal bird migration in southern Mexico

Sergio A. Cabrera-Cruz, Todd J. Mabee, Rafael Villegas-Patraca


The Isthmus of Tehuantepec is the narrowest landmass between the Gulf of Mexico and the Pacific Ocean. It is known as an important stopover
site and migration corridor for Nearctic-Neotropical migratory birds.We characterized nocturnal bird migration along the Pacific side of the isthmus
with marine radar, and identified species with diurnal point counts during 5 fall seasons (2009–2013) at operational and proposed wind farms. We found significant differences in migratory traffic rates, flight directions, and flight altitudes among years and sites, but we also found patterns of similarity including flight directions heading to the southeast each season; migratory traffic rates peaking 3–4 h after sunset and decreasing thereafter; flight altitudes increasing throughout the night; seasonal mean flight altitudes fluctuating between ∼520 and ∼720m above ground level (m agl); and <7% of detected targets flying below 100m agl. Our data suggest that migratory activity initiates around mid-September and peaks in mid-October.We identified 58 bird species of nocturnal migrants. Studies of nocturnal bird migration are important for understanding potential impacts from wind farms.

Palabras clave

Isthmus of Tehuantepec; Marine radar; Oaxaca; Wind farm

Texto completo:

PDF (English)


Agostinelli C., & Lund U. (2013). R package “circular”: Circular Statistics (version 0.4-7).

Alemán-Nava, G. S., Casiano-Flores, V. H., Cárdenas-Chávez, D. L., Díaz-Chavez, R., Scarlat, N., & Mahlknecht, J. (2014). Renewable energy research progress in Mexico: A review. Renew Sustain Energy Rev. Elsevier 32, 140–153.

Barber, B. R., & Klicka, J. (2010). Two pulses of diversification across the Isthmus of Tehuantepec in a montane Mexican bird fauna. Proc R Soc B-Biological Sci., 2675–2681.

Berens, P. (2009.) CircStat: A MATLAB toolbox for Circular Statistics. J Stat Sofware, 31, 21.

Binford, L. C. (1989). A distributional survey of the birds of the Mexican State of Oaxaca. Ornithol Monogr., 43: VIII–418.

Bruderer, B., Underhill, L. G., & Liechti, F. (1995). Altitude choice by night migrants in a desert area predicted by meteorological factors. Ibis, 137, 44–55.

Bruderer, B., & Liechti, F. (1998). Flight behaviour of nocturnally migrating birds in coastal areas - crossing or coasting. J Avian Biol., 29, 499–507.

Bruderer, B., & Popa-Lisseanu, A. G. (2005). Radar data on wing-beat frequencies and flight speeds of two bat species. Acta Chiropterologica, 7, 73–82.

Cabrera-Cruz, S. A., Mabee, T. J., & Villegas-Patraca, R. V. (2013a). Nocturnal bird migration in Mexico: First records from marine radar. Ornitol Neotrop., 24, 299–309.

Cabrera-Cruz, S. A., Mabee, T. J., & Villegas-Patraca, R. V. (2013b). Using theoretical flight speeds to discriminate birds from insects in radar studies. Condor, 115, 263–272.

Chelton, D. B., Freilich, M. H., & Esbensen, S. K. (2000). Satellite observations of the wind jets off the Pacific coast of Central America. Part I: Case studies and statistical characteristics. Mon Weather Rev., 128, 1993–2018.

CONABIO. (1998). Uso de suelo y vegetación de INEGI agrupado por CONABIO. Escala 1:1 000 000. Modificado de: Instituto Nacional de Estadística, Geografía e Informática (INEGI) - Instituto Nacional de Ecología (INE), (1996). Uso del suelo y vegetación, escala 1:1 000 000. México, D.F. Retrieved on August 11th, 2015 from

Cooper, B. A., Day, R. H., Ritchie, R. J., & Cranor, C. L. (1991). An improved marine radar system for studies of bird migration. J F Ornithol., 62, 367–377.

Cooper, B. A., & Ritchie, R. J. (1995). The altitude of bird migration in east-central Alaska: a radar and visual study. J F Ornithol., 66, 590–608.

Desholm, M., & Kahlert, J. (2005). Avian collision risk at an offshore wind farm. Biol Lett., 1, 1 – 3.

Dokter, A. M., Liechti, F., Stark, H., Delobbe, L., Tabary, P., & Holleman, I. (2011). Bird migration flight altitudes studied by a network of operational weather radars. J R Soc Interface., 8, 30–43.

Dokter, A. M., Shamoun-Baranes, J., Kemp, M. U, Tijm, S., Holleman, I. (2013). High altitude bird migration at temperate latitudes: a synoptic perspective on wind assistance. PLoS One, 8, e52300.

Drewitt, A. L., & Langston, R. H. W. (2006). Assessing the impacts of wind farms on birds. Ibis, 148, 29–42.

Elliott, D., Schwartz, M., Scott, G., Haymes, S., Heimiller, D., & George, R. (2003). Wind energy resource atlas of Oaxaca. 1st ed. Golden: National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

Estrada, A., & Coates-Estrada, R. (2005). Diversity of Neotropical migratory landbird species assemblages in forest fragments and man-made vegetation in Los Tuxtlas, Mexico. Biodivers Conserv., 14, 1719–1734.

Faaborg, J., Holmes, R. T., Anders, A. D., Bildstein, K. L., Dugger, K. M., & Gauthreaux, Jr. S. A. (2010). Recent advances in understanding migration systems of New World land birds. Ecol Monogr., 80, 3–48.

Furuno. (2002). Operator’s manual. 15" Multi-color high performance shipborne radar and ARPA. Model FR-1500 MARK-3 series. Nishinomiya, Japan.

Gauthreaux, S. A. (1971). A radar and direct visual study of passerine spring migration in southern Louisiana. Auk, 88, 343–365.

Gill, F. B. (2007). Ornithology. 3rd ed. New York: W. H. Freeman.

Harmata, A. R., Podruzny, K. M., Zelenak, J. R., & Morrison, M. L. (2000). Passage rates and timing of bird migration in Montana. Am Midl Nat., 143, 30–40.

Hedenström, A., Johansson, L. C., Spedding, G. R. (2009). Bird or bat: Comparing airframe design and flight performance. Bioinspir Biomim., 4, 015001.

Hutto, R. L. (1992). Habitat distributions of migratory landbird species in western Mexico. In J. M. Hagan & D. W. Johnston, (Eds.), Ecology and conservation of Neotropical migrant landbirds (pp. 221–239). Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press.

Jahn, A. E., Cueto, V. R., Fox, J.W., Husak, M. S., Kim, D. H., & Landoll, D. V. (2013). Migration timing and wintering areas of three species of flycatchers (Tyrannus) breeding in the Great Plains of North America. Auk, 130, 247–257.

Jaramillo, O., & Borja, M. (2004). Wind speed analysis in La Ventosa, Mexico: A bimodal probability distribution case. Renew Energy. Elsevier, 29, 1613–1630.

Johnston, D. S., Howell, J. A., Terrill, S. B., Thorngate, N., Castle, J., Smith, J. P. (2013). Bird and bat movement patterns and mortality at the Montezuma Hills wind resource area. Los Gatos, California. Retrieved on August 20th, 2015 from

Kelly, J. F., & Hutto, R. L. (2005). An east-west comparison of migration in North American Wood Warblers. The Condor 107, 197–211.

Kerlinger, P. (1995). How birds migrate. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books.

Larkin, R. P. (1991). Flight speeds observed with radar, a correction: Slow “birds” are insects. Behav Ecol Sociobiol., 29, 221–224.

Larkin, R. P., & Szafoni, R. E. (2008). Evidence for widely dispersed birds migrating together at night. Integr Comp Biol., 48, 40–49.

Larkin, R. P., & Diehl, R. H. (2012). Radar techniques for wildlife research. In C. E. Braun (Ed.), Techniques for wildlife investigations and management (pp. 448-464). 7th ed. Bethesda, Maryland: Wildlife Society.

Liechti, F., Klaassen, M., & Bruderer, B. (2000). Predicting migratory flight altitudes by physiological migration models. Auk, 117, 205–214.

Mabee, T. J., & Cooper, B. A. (2004). Nocturnal bird migration in northeastern Oregon and southeastern Washington. Northwest Nat., 85, 39–47.

Mabee, T. J., Cooper, B. A., Plissner, J. H., & Young, D. P. (2006). Nocturnal bird migration over an Appalachian ridge at a proposed wind power project. Wildl Soc Bull., 34, 682–690.

Mabee, T. J., & Sanzenbacher, P. M. (2008). A radar study of nocturnal bird and bat migration at the proposed Hatchet Ridge wind project, California, Fall 2007. Forest Grove, Oregon. Retrieved on September 21, 2016 from

Madsen, J., & Boertmann, D. (2008). Animal behavioral adaptation to changing landscapes: Spring-staging geese habituate to wind farms. Landsc Ecol., 23, 1007–1011.

Millikin, R. L. (2001). Sensor fusion for the localisation of birds in flight. Ph.D. Thesis. Royal Military College of Canada.

Moore, F. (1990). Prothonotary warblers cross the Gulf of Mexico together. J F Ornithol., 61, 285–287.

Muñoz-Jiménez, Ó. (2014). Evaluación de la importancia de los elementos de un paisaje antropizado para la retención de diversidad de murciélagos en el Istmo de Tehuantepec, Oaxaca, México. M.Sc Thesis, Universidad Veracruzana.

Pinheiro, J., Bates, D., DebRoy, S., & Sarkar, D. (2011). nlme: Linear and nonlinear mixed effects models. R package version 3.1-102.

R Development Core Team. (2012). R: A language and environment for statistical computing. Vienna, Austria: R Foundation for Statistical Computing.

Rappole, J. H., Morton, E. S., Lovejoy, T. E., & Ruos, J. L. (1983). Nearctic avian migrants in the Neotropics. 1st ed. Washington, DC: U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Richardson, W. J. (1978). Timing and amount of bird migration in relation to weather: A review. Oikos, 30, 224–272.

Richardson, W. J. (1990). Timing of bird migration in relation to weather: Updated review. In E. Gwinner (Ed.), Bird Migration: Physiology and Ecophysiology (pp. 78-101). Berlin.

Ríos-Muñoz, C. (2013). ¿Es posible reconocer una unidad biótica entre América del Norte y del Sur? Rev Mex Biodivers., 84, 1864–1872.

Romero-Centeno, R. (2001). Modelo matemático para la caracterización del viento en el Istmo de Tehuantepec. Bs.C. Thesis. Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México.

Romero-Centeno, R., Zavala-Hidalgo, J., Gallegos, A., & O’Brien, J. J. (2003). Isthmus of Tehuantepec wind climatology and ENSO signal. J Clim., 16, 2628–2639.

Rzedowski, J. (1990). Vegetación Potencial. IV.8.2. Atlas Nacional de México. Vol II. Escala 1:4000000. México, D.F.: Instituto de Geografía, UNAM. Retrieved on August 20th, 2015 from:

Santos-Moreno, A. (2014). Los mamíferos del estado de Oaxaca. Rev Mex Mastozoología Nueva Época., 2, 18–32.

Shaw, D. W., & Winker, K. (2011). Spring stopover and refueling among migrant passerines in the Sierra de los Tuxtlas, Veracruz, Mexico. Wilson J Ornithol., 123, 575–587.

Steenburgh, W. J., Schultz, D. M., & Colle, B. A. (1998). The structure and evolution of gap outflow over the Gulf of Tehuantepec, Mexico. Mon Weather Rev., 126, 2673–2691.

UNAM (2016). Estación de Biología Tropical “Los Tuxtlas”. In Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México – Instituto de Biología. Retrieved on September 23th, 2016 from

UNEP, CMS. (2009). A bird’s eye on flyways. Bonn: United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Secretariat of the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS).

Villegas-Patraca, R., Macías-Sánchez, S., Macgregor-Fors, I., & Muñoz-Robles, C. (2012a). Scavenger removal: Bird and bat carcass persistence in a tropical wind farm. Acta Oecologica, 43, 121–125.

Villegas-Patraca, R., MacGregor-Fors, I., Ortiz-Martínez, T., Pérez-Sánchez, C. E., Herrera-Alsina, L., & Muñoz-Robles, C. (2012b). Bird-community shifts in relation to wind farms: A case study comparing a wind farm, croplands, and secondary forests in southern Mexico. Condor, 114, 711–719.

Villegas-Patraca, R., Cabrera-Cruz, S. A., & Herrera-Alsina, L. (2014). Soaring migratory birds avoid wind farm in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, southern Mexico. PLoS One, 9, e92462.

Winker, K. (1995a). Neotropical stopover sites and Middle American migrations: the view from southern Mexico. In M. Wilson & S. Sader (Eds.), Conservation of Neotropical migratory birds in Mexico (pp. 150–163). Orono, Maine Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station.

Winker, K. (1995b). Autumn stopover on the Isthmus of Tehuantepec by woodland Nearctic-Neotropic Migrants. Auk, 112, 690–700.

Winker, K. (1995c). Habitat selection in woodland Nearctic-Neotropic migrants on the Isthmus of Tehuantepec I. Autumn migration. Wilson Bull., 107, 26–39.


Enlaces refback

  • No hay ningún enlace refback.

     Ed. en Jefe: Fernando Álvarez Noguera
     Tel: (55)5622-9164
     ISSN-versión electrónica: 2007-8706
     FACTOR DE IMPACTO 2019 (publicado en 2020): 0.585
     FI a 5 años: 0.971
     CiteScore (Scopus, 2020): 1.4
     Licencia Creative Commons 
Revista Mexicana de Biodiversidad por IB-UNAM se distribuye bajo una Licencia Creative Commons Atribución-NoComercial-SinDerivar 4.0 Internacional.


Revista Mexicana de Biodiversidad, Año 3, No. 12, enero-marzo 2014, es una publicación trimestral editada por la Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Ciudad Universitaria, Delegación Coyoacán, C.P. 04510, Ciudad de México, a través del Instituto de Biología, Tercer Circuito Universitario s/n, Ciudad Universitaria, Col. Copilco, Del. Coyoacán, C.P. 04510, Ciudad de México, Tel. (55)56229164,, responsable: Dr. Fernando Álvarez Noguera. Reserva de Derechos al uso Exclusivo No. 04-2013-092709142100-203, ISSN: 2007-8706, ambos otorgados por el Instituto Nacional del Derecho de Autor, Responsable de la última actualización de este número, Instituto de Biología, UNAM, Dr. Fernando Álvarez Noguera, Tercer Circuito Universitario s/n, Ciudad Universitaria, Col. Copilco, Del. Coyoacán, C.P. 04510, Ciudad de México, fecha de la última modificación: 25 de agosto de 2016.

Las opiniones expresadas por los autores, no necesariamente reflejan la postura del editor de la publicación. Se autoriza la reproducción total o parcial de los textos aquí publicados siempre y cuando se cite la fuente completa y la dirección electrónica de la publicación.