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Strong Migratory Connectivity in a Declining Arctic Passerine

12 / K.C. Fraser3 / H.G. Gilchrist2 / T.K. Kyser4 / J.W. Fox5 / O.P. Love1

1Department of Biological Sciences, University of Windsor, Windsor, Ontario, Canada N9B 3P4

2Environment Canada, National Wildlife Research Centre, Carleton University, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada K1A 0H3

3Department of Biology, York University, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M3J 1P3

4Department of Geological Sciences and Geological Engineering, Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada K7L 3N6

5British Antarctic Survey, Cambridge, United Kingdom CB3 0ET. Current: Migrate Technology Ltd, Cambridge, United Kingdom CB1 0QY

This content is open access.

Citation Information: Animal Migration. Volume 1, Pages 23–30, ISSN (Online) 2084-8838, ISSN (Print) , DOI: 10.2478/ami-2012-0003, November 2012

Publication History

Received:
2012-08-01
Accepted:
2012-10-21
Published Online:
2012-11-30

Abstract

Determining how animal populations are linked in space and time is important for identifying factors influencing population dynamics and for effective conservation and management. Arctic-breeding migratory passerines are declining and at risk due to forecasted climate change, but are a challenge to monitor due to their inaccessible breeding locations, long-distance migration routes and small body size. For the first time, we combine sub-gram geolocator technology and stable-isotope analysis with mark-recapture (banding) and citizen science data to determine patterns of migratory connectivity for multiple populations of a declining North American Arctic-breeding passerine, snow bunting (Plectrophenax nivalis). We show strong evidence for an east-west parallel migratory system, with Hudson Bay acting as a migratory divide. While band recoveries suggest strong migratory connectivity among eastern wintering populations (more than 95% of band recoveries reveal connections between western Greenland and eastern North America), novel application of geolocators and stable-hydrogen isotope analysis to a Canadian breeding population revealed a high degree of migratory connectivity within western North American wintering populations. Our results also show distinct differences in migratory distance between eastern and western populations, and illustrate how applying multiple techniques can effectively be used to track migration patterns of remote populations. Differences in annual distribution and migratory distance suggest that separate consideration of eastern and western wintering populations may improve future conservation and management efforts for this species.

Keywords: Snow bunting (Plectrophenax nivalis); Geolocators; Stable isotopes; Band recoveries; Citizen science; Migratory divide; Migration ecology

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