Jump to ContentJump to Main Navigation
Show Summary Details
More options …

Animal Migration

Ed. by Davis, Andrew

Open Access
See all formats and pricing
More options …

Estimating geolocator accuracy for a migratory songbird using live ground-truthing in tropical forest

Emily A. McKinnon / Calandra Q. Stanley / Kevin C. Fraser / Maggie M. MacPherson / Garth Casbourn / Peter P. Marra
  • Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, Migratory Bird Center, National Zoological Park, Washington, D.C., USA, 20008
  • Other articles by this author:
  • De Gruyter OnlineGoogle Scholar
/ Colin E. Studds
  • ARC Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions, the NERP Environmental Decisions Hub, Centre for Biodiversity & Conservation Science, University of Queensland, Brisbane, Queensland 4072
  • Other articles by this author:
  • De Gruyter OnlineGoogle Scholar
/ Nora Diggs
  • Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, Migratory Bird Center, National Zoological Park, Washington, D.C., USA, 20008
  • Other articles by this author:
  • De Gruyter OnlineGoogle Scholar
/ Bridget J.M. Stutchbury
Published Online: 2013-02-06 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.2478/ami-2013-0001


Miniaturized light-level geolocators allow year-round tracking of small migratory birds, but most studies use calibration only at breeding sites to estimate geographic positions. Ground-truthing of positions in tropical habitat is needed to determine how accurate breeding site calibrations (i.e. sun elevations) are for estimating location of winter sites. We tested the accuracy of geographic assignments using geolocator data collected from Wood Thrushes (Hylocichla mustelina) in Central America. For a given light threshold, sun elevation angle was higher in the tropics than at breeding sites and also varied significantly at tropical winter sites between wet (Oct- Dec) and dry (Jan-Mar) seasons. However, estimation of Wood Thrush territory latitude did not differ significantly when using breeding or tropical dry season sun elevation. Average error in assignment to tropical sites was 365 ± 97 km (0.2-4.4°) in latitude. To obtain the best latitude estimates in the tropics with geolocators, we recommend using locations during the dry season where sun elevations are closer to those measured at breeding sites. We emphasize the importance of longitude in assigning forest birds to unknown sites; longitude estimates for Wood Thrushes in the tropics were, on average, within 66 ± 13 km (0-0.6°) of actual longitude. Latitude estimates were more accurate (180 ± 48 km) when assigning birds to breeding sites using deployments of geolocators in the tropics. Studies of species that are territorial in winter could collect more accurate migratory connectivity data by deploying geolocators at tropical wintering sites.

This article offers supplementary material which is provided at the end of the article.

Keywords: Migration; Geo-loggers; Tracking; Sun elevation; Central America

  • Cochran W.W., Wikelski M., Individual migratory tactics of New World Catharus thrushes, In: Greenberg R. and Marra P.P. (Eds.), Birds of Two Worlds, The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, MA, 2005 Google Scholar

  • Rimmer C.C., McFarland K.P., Known breeding and wintering sites of a Bicknell’s Thrush, Wilson Bull., 2001, 113, 234- 236. Google Scholar

  • Stutchbury B.J.M., Tarof S.A., Done T., Gow E., Kramer P.M., Tautin J., et al., Tracking long-distance songbird migration by using geolocators, Science, 2009, 323, 896, doi:10.1126/ science.1166664. Web of ScienceCrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Bächler E., Hahn S., Schaub M., Arlettaz R., Jenni L., Fox J.W., et al., Year-round tracking of small trans-saharan migrants using light-level geolocators, PLOS ONE, 2010, 5, 4, doi:e9566 10.1371/journal.pone.0009566. Web of ScienceGoogle Scholar

  • Heckscher C.M., Taylor S.M., Fox J.W., Afanasyev V., Veery (Catharus fucescens) wintering locations, migratory connectivity, and a revision of its winter range using geolocator technology, Auk, 2011, 128, 531-542, doi:10.1525/ auk.2011.10280. Web of ScienceCrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Ryder T.B., Fox J.W., Marra P.P., Estimating migratory connectivity of Gray Catbirds (Dumetella carolinensis) using geolocator and mark-recapture data Auk, 2011, 128, 448- 453, doi:10.1525/auk.2011.11091. CrossrefWeb of ScienceGoogle Scholar

  • Schmaljohann H., Buchmann M., Fox J.W., Bairlein F., Tracking migration routes and the annual cycle of a trans- Sahara songbird migrant, Behav. Ecol. Sociobiol., 2012, 66, 915-922, doi:10.1007/s00265-012-1340-5. Web of ScienceCrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Seavy N.E., Humple D.L., Cormier R.L., Gardali T., Establishing the breeding provenance of a temperatewintering North American passerine, the Golden-Crowned Sparrow, using light-level geolocation, PLOS ONE, 2012, 7, doi:e34886 10.1371/journal.pone.0034886. Web of ScienceGoogle Scholar

  • Stach R., Jakobsson S., Kullberg C., Fransson T., Geolocators reveal three consecutive wintering areas in the thrush nightingale, Animal Migration, 2012, 1, 1-7, doi:10.2478/ami-2012-0001. CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Beason J.P., Gunn C., Potter K.M., Sparks R.A., Fox J.W., The northern Black Swift: Migration path and wintering area revealed Wilson J. Ornithol., 2012, 124, 1-8, doi:http:// dx.doi.org/10.1676/11-146.1. Google Scholar

  • Åkesson S., Klaassen R., Holmgren J., Fox J.W., Hedenström A., Migration routes and strategies in a highly aerial migrant, the Common Swift Apus apus, revealed by light-level geolocators, PLOS ONE, 2012, 7, e41195, doi:e41195 10.1371/journal.pone.0041195. Google Scholar

  • Bairlein F., Norris D.R., Nagel R., Bulte M., Voight C.C., Fox J.W., et al., Cross-hemisphere migration of a 25g songbird, Biol. Lett., 2012, 2012, 505-507, doi:10.1098/rsbl.2011.1223. CrossrefWeb of ScienceGoogle Scholar

  • Delmore K.E., Fox J.W., Irwin D.E., Dramatic intraspecific differences in migratory routes, stopover sites and wintering areas, revealed using light-level geolocators, Proc. R. Soc. B-Biol. Sci., 2012, Published Online 26 Sept, doi:10.1098/ rspb.2012.1229. Web of ScienceCrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Fraser K.C., Stutchbury B.J.M., Silverio C., Kramer P.M., Barrow J., Newstead D., et al., Continent-wide tracking to determine migratory connectivity and tropical habitat associations of a declining aerial insectivore, Proc. R. Soc. B-Biol. Sci., 2013, 279, 4901-4906. Web of ScienceGoogle Scholar

  • Stutchbury B.J.M., Gow E.A., Done T., MacPherson M., Fox J.W., Afanasyev V., Effects of post-breeding moult and energetic condition on timing of songbird migration into the tropics, Proc. R. Soc. B-Biol. Sci., 2011, 278, 131-137, doi:10.1098/rspb.2010.1220. CrossrefWeb of ScienceGoogle Scholar

  • Martin T.G., Chades I., Arcese P., Marra P.P., Possingham H.P., Norris D.R., Optimal conservation of migratory species, PLOS ONE, 2007, 2, e751, doi:e751 10.1371/journal. pone.0000751. Google Scholar

  • Sheehy J., Taylor C.M., McCann K.S., Norris D.R., Optimal conservation planning for migratory animals: integrating demographic information across seasons, Conserv Lett, 2010, 3, 192-202, doi:Doi 10.1111/J.1755- 263x.2010.00100.X. CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Marra P.P., Hunter D., Perrault A.M., Migratory connectivity and the conservation of migratory animals, Environmental Law. Lewis and Clark., 2011, 41, 317-354. Google Scholar

  • Fudickar A.M., Wikelski M., Partecke J., Tracking migratory songbirds: accuracy of light-level loggers (geolocators) in forest habitats, Methods in Ecology and Evolution, 2012, 3, 47-52, doi:10.1111/J.2041-210x.2011.00136.X. Web of ScienceCrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Lisovski S., Hewson C.M., Klaassen R.H.G., Korner- Nievergelt F., Kristensen M.W., Hahn S., Geolocation by light: accuracy and precision affected by environmental factors, Methods in Ecology and Evolution, 2012, 3, 603-612, doi:10.1111/j.2041-210X.2012.00185.x. CrossrefWeb of ScienceGoogle Scholar

  • Harris M.P., Daunt F., Newell M., Phillips R.A., Wanless S., Wintering areas of adult Atlantic puffins Fratercula arctica from a North Sea colony as revealed by geolocation technology, Mar Biol, 2010, 157, 827-836, doi:10.1007/s00227-009- 1365-0. CrossrefWeb of ScienceGoogle Scholar

  • Nisbet I.C.T., Mostello C.S., Veit R.R., Fox J.W., Afanasyev V., Migrations and winter quarters of five Common Terns tracked using geolocators, Waterbirds, 2011, 34, 32-39. Web of ScienceGoogle Scholar

  • Rodriguez A., Negro J.J., Bustamante J., Fox J.W., Afanasyev V., Geolocators map the wintering grounds of threatened Lesser Kestrels in Africa, Divers Distrib, 2009, 15, 1010-1016. Web of ScienceGoogle Scholar

  • Tøttrup A.P., Klaassen R.H.G., Strandberg R., Thorup K., Kristensen M.W., Jørgensen P.S., et al., The annual cycle of a trans-equatorial Eurasian-African passerine migrant: different spatio-temporal strategies for autumn and spring migration, Proc. R. Soc. B-Biol. Sci., 2012, 279, 1008-1016, doi:Doi 10.1098/Rspb.2011.1323. Web of ScienceCrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Faaborg J., Holmes R.T., Anders A.D., Bildstein K.L., Dugger K.M., Gauthreaux S.A., et al., Conserving migratory land birds in the New World: Do we know enough?, Ecological Applications, 2010, 20, 398-418. Web of ScienceGoogle Scholar

  • Vega Rivera J.H., McShea W.J., Rappole J.H., Haas C.A., Pattern and chronology of prebasic molt for the Wood Thrush and its relation to reproduction and migration departure, Wilson Bull., 1998, 110, 384-392. Google Scholar

  • Chandler C.C., King D.I., Chandler R.B., Do mature forest birds prefer early-successional habitat during the postfledging period?, Forest Ecol Manag, 2012, 264, 1-9, doi:10.1016/j.foreco.2011.09.018. CrossrefWeb of ScienceGoogle Scholar

  • Lisovski S., Bauer S., Emmenegger T., Analysis of light based geolocator data, 1.02, 2012, CRAN, cran.r-project.org/web/packages/GeoLight/GeoLight.pdf Google Scholar

About the article

Received: 2012-11-03

Accepted: 2012-12-28

Published Online: 2013-02-06

Citation Information: Animal Migration, Volume 1, Pages 31–38, ISSN (Online) 2084-8838, DOI: https://doi.org/10.2478/ami-2013-0001.

Export Citation

This content is open access.

Supplementary Article Materials

Citing Articles

Here you can find all Crossref-listed publications in which this article is cited. If you would like to receive automatic email messages as soon as this article is cited in other publications, simply activate the “Citation Alert” on the top of this page.

Emily A. McKinnon and Oliver P. Love
The Auk, 2018, Volume 135, Number 4, Page 834
Emily A. McKinnon, Kevin C. Fraser, Calandra Q. Stanley, Bridget J. M. Stutchbury, and Paul A. Bartell
PLoS ONE, 2014, Volume 9, Number 8, Page e105605
Gunnar R. Kramer, Henry M. Streby, Sean M. Peterson, Justin A. Lehman, David A. Buehler, Petra B. Wood, Darin J. McNeil, Jeffery L. Larkin, and David E. Andersen
The Condor, 2017, Volume 119, Number 1, Page 108
Keith A. Hobson, Kevin J. Kardynal, Steven L. Van Wilgenburg, Gretchen Albrecht, Antonio Salvadori, Michael D. Cadman, Felix Liechti, James W. Fox, and R. Mark Brigham
PLOS ONE, 2015, Volume 10, Number 6, Page e0129340
Emily A. McKinnon, C. M. Macdonald, H. G. Gilchrist, and O. P. Love
Journal of Ornithology, 2016, Volume 157, Number 3, Page 681
Elizabeth A. Gow
Journal of Field Ornithology, 2016, Volume 87, Number 1, Page 74
Tom Finch, Philip Saunders, Jesús Miguel Avilés, Ana Bermejo, Inês Catry, Javier de la Puente, Tamara Emmenegger, Ieva Mardega, Patrick Mayet, Deseada Parejo, Edmunds Račinskis, Juan Rodríguez-Ruiz, Peter Sackl, Timothée Schwartz, Michael Tiefenbach, Francisco Valera, Chris Hewson, Aldina Franco, Simon James Butler, and Risto Heikkinen
Diversity and Distributions, 2015, Volume 21, Number 9, Page 1051
Michael T. Hallworth, T. Scott Sillett, Steven L. Van Wilgenburg, Keith A. Hobson, and Peter P. Marra
Ecological Applications, 2015, Volume 25, Number 2, Page 336
Keith A. Hobson, Steven L. Van Wilgenburg, John Faaborg, Judith D. Toms, Carlos Rengifo, Alejandro Llanes Sosa, Yves Aubry, and Rafael Brito Aguilar
Journal of Field Ornithology, 2014, Volume 85, Number 3, Page 237
Calandra Q. Stanley, Emily A. McKinnon, Kevin C. Fraser, Maggie P. Macpherson, Garth Casbourn, Lyle Friesen, Peter P. Marra, Colin Studds, T. Brandt Ryder, Nora E. Diggs, and Bridget J. M. Stutchbury
Conservation Biology, 2015, Volume 29, Number 1, Page 164
Emily A. McKinnon, Kevin C. Fraser, and Bridget J. M. Stutchbury
The Auk, 2013, Volume 130, Number 2, Page 211
Michael T. Hallworth, Colin E. Studds, T. Scott Sillett, and Peter P. Marra
The Auk, 2013, Volume 130, Number 2, Page 273

Comments (0)

Please log in or register to comment.
Log in