Migratory species depend on a suite of interconnected sites. Threats to unprotected links in these chains of sites are driving rapid population declines of migrants around the world, yet the extent to which different parts of the annual cycle are protected remains unknown. We show that just 9% of 1451 migratory birds are adequately covered by protected areas across all stages of their annual cycle, in comparison with 45% of nonmigratory birds. This discrepancy is driven by protected area placement that does not cover the full annual cycle of migratory species, indicating that global efforts toward coordinated conservation planning for migrants are yet to bear fruit. Better-targeted investment and enhanced coordination among countries are needed to conserve migratory species throughout their migratory cycle.