Population trends in Vermivora warblers are linked to strong migratory connectivity.

  • April 3, 2018
  • by Kramer, G. R., Andersen, D. E., Buehler, D. A., Wood, P. B., Peterson, S. M., Lehman, J. A., … Streby, H. M.

Migratory species can experience limiting factors at different locations and during different periods of their annual cycle. In migratory birds, these factors may even occur in different hemispheres. Therefore, identifying the distribution of populations throughout their annual cycle (i.e., migratory connectivity) can reveal the complex ecological and evolutionary relationships that link species and ecosystems across the globe and illuminate where and how limiting factors influence population trends. A growing body of literature continues to identify species that exhibit weak connectivity wherein individuals from distinct breeding areas co-occur during the nonbreeding period. A detailed account of a broadly distributed species exhibiting strong migratory connectivity in which nonbreeding isolation of populations is associated with differential population trends remains undescribed. Here, we present a range-wide assessment of the nonbreeding distribution and migratory connectivity of two broadly dispersed Nearctic-Neotropical migratory songbirds. We used geolocators to track the movements of 70 Vermivora warblers from sites spanning their breeding distribution in eastern North America and identified links between breeding populations and nonbreeding areas. Unlike blue-winged warblers (Vermivora cyanoptera), breeding populations of golden-winged warblers (Vermivora chrysoptera) exhibited strong migratory connectivity, which was associated with historical trends in breeding populations: stable for populations that winter in Central America and declining for those that winter in northern South America.