The dynamic weather conditions that migrating birds experience during flight likely influence where they stop to rest and refuel, particularly after navigating inhospitable terrain or large water bodies, but effects of weather on stopover patterns remain poorly studied. We examined the influence of broad-scale weather conditions encountered by nocturnally migrating Nearctic-Neotropical birds during northward flight over the Gulf of Mexico (GOM) on subsequent coastal stopover distributions. We categorized nightly weather patterns using historic maps and quantified region-wide densities of birds in stopover habitat with data collected by 10 weather surveillance radars from 2008 to 2015. We found spring weather patterns over the GOM were most often favorable for migrating birds, with winds assisting northward flight, and document regional stopover patterns in response to specific unfavorable weather conditions. For example, Midwest Continental High is characterized by strong northerly winds over the western GOM, resulting in high-density concentrations of migrants along the immediate coastlines of Texas and Louisiana. We show, for the first time, that broad-scale weather experienced during flight influences when and where birds stop to rest and refuel. Linking synoptic weather patterns encountered during flight with stopover distributions contributes to the emerging macro-ecological understanding of bird migration, which is critical to consider in systems undergoing rapid human-induced changes.
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