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School of Environment and Natural Resources


Translating the vital role of insects for migratory birds

May. 20, 2024
Anna Rose sketching at the Olentangy River Wetland Research Park. Photo courtesy of Emma Robinson

Through art Anna Rose brings to life the interdependence of insects and birds. This vital connection is the focus of World Migratory Bird Day.

Artist and graduate student in the School of Environment and Natural Resources at The Ohio State University Anna Rose was named by Environment for the Americas as Featured Artist for the 2024 World Migratory Bird Day (WMBD) - celebrated this year on both May 11 and October 12 to align with the cyclic nature of bird migration in different hemispheres.

Insects are key to migratory bird nourishment and survival

Bird migration is an annual journey involving the mass movement of birds across vast distances – a complex phenomenon that captures the attention of scientists and citizens alike. The success of bird migration and sustaining avian populations depends on adequate nourishment along the journey.

In the United States, birds will fly north in the spring and migrate south in the Fall along flyways to take advantage of areas with higher or increasing resources – such as food or nesting locations. Along this journey and at nesting locations, insects provide essential energy for migratory birds and their survival.

This year’s World Migratory Day  is a call for proactive conservation as the loss and disturbance of insect populations along avian migratory routes and at breeding sites, along with habitat fragmentation threaten migration and breeding.

Bringing to life the interdependence of insects and birds

Through art – Anna Rose translates the essential role insects play in bird nourishment and survival along their migration routes.

For this year’s WMBD theme – Protect Birds, Protect Insects, Anna has created educational pieces for the Americas Flyway focused on seven bird species and seven insects.

A few of the Americas Flyway species featured include the American kestrel and the Broad-tailed hummingbird and the insects (Red-legged Grasshopper and the Mayfly respectively) that are key food sources for the featured birds.

American kestral by Anna RoseRed-legged Grasshopper by Anna Rose.

“Each of the insects I drew are tied to one of the bird species and serve as primary food sources for that particular species,” Anna said. All of the featured insects and birds shown on the 2024 World Migratory Bird Day poster were created by Anna.

The Broad-tailed hummingbird by Anna Rose.Mayfly by Anna Rose.

“Insects are vital protein and a good source of fats for nestlings and the next generation of birds,” said Anna Rose, featured artist for World Migratory Bird Day.

Soon to be released are nine more birds and three more insects Anna drew for the other three flyway partnerships.

A magnificent journey

As an undergraduate Anna studied the flocking behavior of White Throated Sparrows at the Olentangy River Wetland Research Park and as a graduate student is currently working with the Forest Bird and Landscape Ecology Lab to study the impacts of ticks on nesting birds in southeastern Ohio.

An avid sketcher, Anna draws inspiration from nature – drawing ideas and sketching the nature she encounters daily.

“Becoming a field sketching artist and scientific illustrator has allowed me to hone my skills in observing nature to notice details that would escape most viewers,” Anna said. “Viewing the world through an artistic lens helps me to communicate science and become a more efficient and critical scientist.”

Anna credits serendipity played a role in being named this year’s featured artist. Supported through funding by the School of Environment and Natural Resources to present a poster on her undergraduate research at the American Ornithology Society Annual Conference she had the chance encounter of meeting representatives of Environment for the Americas, who were also in attendance. This chance meeting coupled with a portfolio of sketches in hand propelled Anna on this magnificent journey.


Anna Rose