What is the Central Flyway?

For starters, flyways are the main routes followed by migrating birds.  Birds tend to gravitate to these flyways because they offer unobstructed corridors of travel with reliable sources of food, water, and shelter.

In the United States, there are four flyways:

  • Atlantic.
  • Mississippi.
  • Central.
  • Pacific.

The Central Flyway mostly takes birds over the spacious Great Plains, with a few narrower alternate routes in the Rocky Mountains.  This creates a sort of aerial superhighway through the following states:

  • Montana.
  • North Dakota.
  • South Dakota.
  • Wyoming.
  • Colorado.
  • Nebraska.
  • Kansas.
  • Oklahoma.
  • New Mexico.
  • Texas.

The Central Flyway also includes three Canadian provinces:

  • Alberta.
  • Saskatchewan.
  • Northwest Territories.

After leaving the United States, birds migrating south on the Central Flyway join with those on the Mississippi Flyway and proceed along the Gulf of Mexico.

Some of the best birding destinations in North America are located along the Central Flyway, such as the Platte River, the upper Texas coast, and the Rio Grande Valley.  In Kansas, the favorite hot spots are Cimarron National Grassland, Cheyenne Bottoms, and Quivira National Wildlife Refuge.

The Central Flyway is blessed with an incredible diversity of bird species, including a surprising number of waterbirds.  Gulls, ducks, hawks, warblers, sparrows, sandpipers, and more pass by, some stopping to spend the winter, others heading further south.  At the peak of migration, a stop at one of the sites mentioned above can result in an exceptionally good birdwatching day.

So if you happen to find yourself somewhere along the Central Flyway this fall, you’re in luck!  Get out your binoculars and start watching!