About RRBO

The Rouge River Bird Observatory was established in 1992 to explore an understudied yet increasingly critical area of research: the importance of urban natural areas to birds. In our rapidly urbanizing world, habitat fragments in metropolitan areas become more critical to birds. Understanding how birds use them is essential for conservation. We are the longest-running, full-time urban bird research station in North America.

In recognition of our efforts, RRBO was designated Conservation Organization of the Year (pdf) in 2005 by the Detroit Audubon Society, and a Best Friend of the Rouge in 2004 by the Friends of the Rouge.

RRBO’s bird banding operation has handled over 30,000 birds of 139 species on the University of Michigan-Dearborn’s campus. Standardized bird surveys track resident and migrant bird populations. Other projects have documented breeding birds and compiled biological inventories throughout Wayne County. Please read more about our initiatives under Conservation Science.

Since its inception, RRBO has been supported entirely outside the University of Michigan-Dearborn’s budget by private donors, foundations, community groups, and grants.  You can make a donation to support our work here.

Research focus

While our research projects are varied, the primary focus of RRBO is to better understand the importance of urban areas as migratory stopover sites for birds. For many bird species, migrations are crucial times in the annual cycle, and events during these periods can have great influence on their populations. Birds traveling thousands of miles on their way to or from breeding and wintering sites need safe places to stop and refuel. Increasingly, they encounter urban areas. Yet little long-term research has been done to determine how birds use urban habitats during migration, whether urban migratory stopovers provide adequate resources, and what resources are most important.

RRBO’s location on the University of Michigan-Dearborn’s campus, with its 300-acre mixed-habitat natural area, is an ideal place to explore these questions. You can read more about our migratory stopover research here.

About our Logo

The University of Michigan-Dearborn is located on property that was once the home of Henry Ford. Ford was not only an industrial leader, but a great nature and bird lover — he was instrumental in convincing Congress to pass the original Migratory Bird Treaty Act in 1918. Throughout Ford’s estate, Fair Lane, there are carvings and other representations of birds. The bird in our logo is based on an image on a copper ventilator cover in the powerhouse at Fair Lane. Originally the branch had two leaves; in 2012, a third leaf was added to represent the beginning of our third decade of bird conservation. Our banding station was formerly headquartered in Fair Lane’s Pony Barn. Our logo reflects the historical nature of our location.


Zugunruhe is a German term used by bird researchers studying bird migration. It means “migratory restlessness,” describing the biological urge birds develop which prompts them to migrate. The bird banders and researchers at RRBO also get “Zugunruhe” in anticipation of migration. RRBO is all about Zugunruhe!

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