Migration is one of the most fascinating natural history events on the planet, and our understanding of these seasonal movements continues to rapidly increase with the advancement of tracking technology. NE CASC Postdoctoral Fellow William DeLuca's new study tracks blackpoll warbler (Setophaga striata) migration across the continent and beyond the Atlantic.
The following was taken from a recent article with the NE CASC host institution of UMass Amherst.
DeLuca points out that acquiring a better understanding of the full annual cycle for blackpolls is critically important to ecologists. “Not only is it one of the fastest declining songbirds in North America, but it’s also one we probably know least about." Stuart McKenzie, a co-author from Bird Studies Canada, adds that the data collected in this new study “helps fill in the migratory network of the species.”
DeLuca says, “It was fascinating to witness the schedule of this migration. Birds that bred further west had to depart the breeding and wintering grounds much earlier in order to arrive at their destinations on time.” The researchers also observed how much faster the birds’ spring migration is compared to the fall. “Most likely this is due to favorable weather conditions and motivation to establish territories on the breeding grounds as soon as possible,” he adds.
The weather in fall 2016 when this work was done happened to be a very active tropical storm season. DeLuca says, “As a result, we don’t know how typical the migration patterns were. Do they normally depart the North American coast that far south, or was it because of the abnormally active tropical storm season? This could be an important question given how vulnerable blackpolls are on the transoceanic flight.”
The publication is part of the lager NE CASC project Mechanisms for species responses to climate change: Are there biological thresholds, and also discusses the effects of abnormal tropical storm activity on migratory behavior, as well as how does the phenology, duration, and routes affect these migrants.
- DeLuca, WV, Woodworth, BK**, Mackenzie, SA, Newman, AEM, Cooke, H, Phillips, LM, Freeman, NK**, Sutton, AO**, Tauzer, L, McIntyre, C, Stenhouse, I, Weidensaul, S, Taylor, PD & Norris, DR. 2019. A boreal songbird’s 20,000 km migration across North America and the Atlantic Ocean Ecology,e02651, DOI 10.1002/ecy.2651