Very little is known about the migration pathways of most Neotropical migrants but even less is known about the Cerulean Warbler. There have been very few records of this species away from the breeding and wintering grounds. It wasn’t until the late great tropical ornithologist, Ted Parker, observed as many as 100 Ceruleans foraging with mixed species flocks over the course of 10 days in 1994 in the Maya Mountains of southeastern Belize that we had our first clue. Parker theorized that the reason there were so few Cerulean Warbler records in migration between South America and the coast of the U.S. was because the birds were making two over-water flights; one across the western Caribbean Ocean and the other across the Gulf of Mexico (Click on map to enlarge). To complete this journey the entire global population of Ceruleans needed to stop in northern Central America to build up additional fat reserves.
Subsequent surveys in the last four years by GCBO Research Associate Melinda Welton have confirmed Parker's hypothesis, and have documented several other localities in Honduras and Guatemala. It appears that the birds are only in Central America for a few weeks in April, in forests between 100 and 1000m. This type of habitat is similar to their wintering grounds in South America.
After the 2007 field season, Melinda will be working with other ornithologists to develop a model which may be able to predict the spacial distribution of stopover habitat for Cerulean Warbler. Such a model has been developed by Dave Buehler, Melinda, and others for breeding habitat in Tennessee. Rigorous field-testing of this model could lead to the identification of critical stopover locations and help prioritize future on-the-ground conservation actions.