Stopping vs. staging: the difference between a hop and a jump


  • Nils Warnock

N. Warnock (, Audubon Alaska, 441 West Fifth Ave, Suite 300, Anchorage, AK 99501 USA.


Places where migrant birds stop to rest, drink, and eat at are often described as either stopover or staging sites. Attempts have been made to differentiate between these two terms but they are frequently used interchangeably. Some authors have equated staging sites with sites that attract large concentrations (many thousands) of birds, a definition that others have expanded to include long stopover durations and significant rates of refueling on predictable, abundant prey. It has also been suggested that birds using staging sites are those that employ a jumping strategy during migration. I argue that while all sites where birds rest and feed during migration are stopover sites, further classification of stopover sites is of ecological and conservation value. I propose that sites with abundant, predictable food resources where birds prepare for an energetic challenge (usually a long flight over a barrier such as an ocean or a desert) requiring substantial fuel stores and physiological changes without which significant fitness costs are incurred are most appropriately described as staging sites.