Prothonotary Warbler by Michelle Davis

Welcome to our home page. It is our hope that access to our home page will promote the exchange of ideas and information in the area of animal migration.

We are part of the Department of Biological Sciences at The University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. Whereas our interests are varied, we generally focus our attention on the ecophysiology, behavior, and ecology of migratory birds during passage. Currently, eight graduate students and several undergraduate students pursue research as part of the Migratory Bird Research Group.

You may contact Frank Moore or any of the graduate students at

Department of Biological Sciences
The University of Southern Mississippi
118 College Drive # 5018
Hattiesburg, MS 39406-0001
Voice: (601)266-4394 Fax:(610)266-5797

Golden-winged WarblerMigration is a fundamental characteristic of the life history of many organisms from monarch butterflies to marine mammals and is surely one of the most fascinating of all behaviors. More than two-thirds of all the birds that breed in the United States and Canada (i.e., temperate North America) migrate to tropical wintering areas in Mexico, Central and South America, and the islands of the Caribbean.

Some biologists have speculated that long-distance, intercontinental landbird migrants experience the best of two worlds: increased reproductive success by virtue of breeding in food rich, competitor poor temperate areas in the summer, and increased survival by spending the temperate winter in the tropics. This argument has merit, but we must keep in mind that migration is a costly, energy expensive, high risk event that takes its toll in increased mortality, especially among young, naive birds-of-the year.

Consider just a few of the problems a migrant must face during passage: She must adjust to unfamiliar habitats, find enough food to fuel long, migratory flights, resolve often conflicting demands between predator avoidance and meeting energetic requirements, correct for orientation mistakes, and cope with adverse weather.

Data Collection
Our research program focuses on the behavioral and physiological adaptations that have evolved to solve those problems. To the extent that a migratory bird solves those problems -- satisfies energy demands and meets en route contingencies -- she experiences a successful migration. A successful migration is measured in terms of survival and reproductive success. 

Furthermore, how well these birds 'offset' the costs of migration has obvious implications for understanding population limitation, not to mention regulation, and, hence, the conservation of landbird migrant species. Over the past 20 years, numbers of these birds have declined, in some cases dramatically. There is no obvious or easy explanation for the declines, although attention has focused largely on events associated with the breeding and wintering phases of the migrant's annual cycle. We contend that conservation biologists must also take into account the importance of habitat during migration and the 'decisions' made in relation to habitat at that time when developing conservation strategies for migratory birds.

The University of Southern Mississippi. Last modified: 08 June, 2009 . Questions and Comments?