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Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center director Pete Marra kneels on a beach after releasing a tagged bird that walks in front of him

Scientists at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute’s Migratory Bird Center work to conserve migratory species through research and public education that foster a better understanding and appreciation of birds.

SMBC research focuses on birds throughout their annual cycle, managed lands, citizen science and saving species in decline. SMBC scientists collaborate with researchers from a variety of international organizations to continue the advancement of ornithology. In doing so, research conducted around the country and across the globe has led to on-the-ground efforts to conserve birds in a changing world.

The Migratory Connectivity Project, for example, uses tracking devices to unlock migratory mysteries by following the movements of migrating birds. SMBC’s Bird Friendly Coffee certification protects crucial bird habitat (and is a delicious way to help birds and their environment). Neighborhood Nestwatch, a public outreach program, helps communities learn about local wildlife by color-banding birds in their own backyards, while the school program, Bridging the Americas, connects students in different countries to learn more about the migratory birds they share throughout the year.

A Message from the Director

Welcome to the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center (SMBC), your virtual gateway to the groundbreaking research conducted by our staff, post docs and students.

Our work broadly focuses on the ecology, evolution and conservation of migratory birds. Whether it's studying annual migratory movements, collecting long-term data on migratory birds from North to South America, working with bird-friendly coffee farmers in Nicaragua or bridging classrooms across the Americas—we do it because we're passionate about science, conservation, education and, of course, birds!

We face some extreme challenges in bird science and conservation, but I firmly believe the scientific advances from SMBC and the talented colleagues we work with are helping to tackle these issues head on.

In the coming years, we will continue to deploy the latest technologies to track species like long-billed curlews, Connecticut warblers, common nighthawks and mountain plovers as they traverse the globe, and wire-tailed manakins as they display on tropical leks in Ecuador's lowlands.

We will build complex population models to better understand why familiar species like the wood thrush and species like it are declining, and then work to apply that information on the ground to save species.

We will study how birds like the island scrub-jay might adapt to climate change, through our ongoing research in the Channel Islands—often called the California Galapagos.

We will continue to protect tropical habitat by promoting Bird Friendly Coffee.

And, we will share this information with more and more kids through our education program, Bridging the Americas, and with the public through our signature citizen-science program, Neighborhood Nestwatch.

This is why we're here. SMBC is committed to bringing the best and most innovative science to broad audiences. Effective solutions require a fundamental understanding of birds' biology. Think of us as natural history detectives searching for clues about birds and what influences their survival.

Why does it matter? That's easy—birds connect us to nature like no other animal. They are an everyday reminder that we are part of the natural world. As species decline or disappear, the integrity of Earth's tapestry, of which we are a part, becomes compromised. As the head of the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center, I can't have that happen—not for my kids or yours. I'm optimistic for the future, the things we'll learn and the information we can provide to make a difference in the conservation of birds and other species.

So please, dive into our website and learn about the fascinating and vital work that goes on here. And know you can help—become a member of the Migratory Bird Center today and join the effort to conserve some of the greatest species on the planet.

Pete Marra, Ph.D
Director, Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center


"The Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center is dedicated to understanding, conserving and championing the grand phenomenon of bird migration. Founded in 1991, we are located at the Smithsonian's National Zoological Park in Washington, D.C.

We seek to clarify why migratory bird populations are declining before the situation becomes desperate. Our programs help raise awareness about migratory birds and the need to protect diverse habitats across the Western Hemisphere."

--Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center