Migration tracking reveals geographic variation in the vulnerability of a nearctic-neotropical migrant bird.

  • March 26, 2020
  • by Humple, D. L., Cormier, R. L., Richardson, T. W., Burnett, R. D., Seavy, N. E., Dybala, K. E., & Gardali, T. (2020).


We compared the vulnerability of a Nearctic-Neotropical migrant (Swainson’s Thrush, Catharus ustulatus) for three geographically-defined breeding populations in California by linking breeding and wintering regions, estimating migration distances, and quantifying relative forest loss. Using data from light-level geolocator and GPS tags, we found that breeding birds from the relatively robust coastal population in the San Francisco Bay area wintered predominantly in western Mexico (n = 18), whereas the far rarer breeding birds from two inland populations that occur near one another in the Sierra Nevada and southern Cascades mountain ranges migrated to farther wintering destinations, with birds from the Lassen region (n = 5) predominantly going to Central America and birds from the Tahoe region (n = 7) predominantly to South America. Landscape-level relative forest loss was greater in the breeding and wintering regions of the two Cascade-Sierra populations than those of coastal birds. Longer migration distances and greater exposure to recent forest loss suggest greater current vulnerability of Cascade-Sierra birds. Our results demonstrate that for some species, quantifying migration distances and destinations across relatively small distances among breeding populations (in this case, 140–250 km apart) can identify dramatically different vulnerabilities that need to be considered in conservation planning.

PUBLICATION AVAILABLE AT: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-62132-6#Sec2