What is the Atlantic Flyway?
Maryland is an important stop in the Atlantic Flyway, one of four major migratory flight routes in North America. Every fall, hundreds of thousands of birds of many different species make their way along the coast from their summer nesting places in the northern U.S., Canada and even the Arctic to their winter homes. Some birds winter on the Chesapeake Bay while others continue south to Florida, the Caribbean Islands and as far away as South America.
Marylandís portion of the Chesapeake Bay is a particular favorite wintering habitat. The Bay area offers vast tidal wetlands and acres and acres of shallow water, as well as nearby agricultural fields and forests. As a result, Maryland boasts the largest wintering concentrations of Canada geese and snow geese along the entire flyway. Marylandís Coastal Bays, the Atlantic coastline and the associated wetlands also provide valuable habitat for migratory birds of many types.
These migratory birds occupy an important niche in the stateís ecosystem and are a rich part of Marylandís cultural and economic heritage. Hunting continues to be a major activity in Maryland and is closely regulated by biologists all along the flyway. Bird watching also is a popular activity that can be enjoyed anytime, nearly anywhere along the flyway.
The state works closely with federal wildlife agencies, nonprofit conservation organizations, 16 other states and several Canadian provinces to monitor the migratory bird populations and associated habitats along the Atlantic Flyway. The end result is the continuation of an ancient seasonal ritual that is critical to the survival of untold numbers of birds that in turn enrich the lives of many Marylanders.
Map of the Atlantic Flyway, courtesy of the USFWS