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Identification of Summer Origins of Songbirds Migrating through Southern Canada in Autumn

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Author(s): Erica H. Dunn | Keith A. Hobson | Len I. Wassenaar | David J. T. Hussell | Martha L. Allen

Journal: Avian Conservation and Ecology
ISSN 1712-6568

Volume: 1;
Issue: 2;
Start page: 4;
Date: 2006;
Original page

Keywords: breeding origin | deuterium | fall migration | stable isotopes

ABSTRACT
Stable hydrogen isotopes (δD) in flight feathers were measured to investigate the summer origins of five species of boreal-breeding warblers captured during fall migration at Canadian Migration Monitoring Network (CMMN) stations spread across southern Canada. Mean δD varied among stations and species within stations, but there was broad overlap in δD values. Although isotope ratios indicate that migrants at each station come from a wide range of latitudes, they are unable to provide much longitudinal discrimination. Band recoveries are sparse, but indicate that in general western Canadian warblers move southeast in fall, eastern birds move southwest, and there is a transition zone in the Great Lakes region. Combining knowledge of migratory direction with isotope results increases discrimination of breeding areas. Isotope results support fall migratory movements by Blackpoll Warbler (Dendroica striata) and Northern Waterthrush (Seiurus novaboracensis) that are more easterly than for other species, and in all study species, birds from more northern regions passed through southern Canada later in the season. Migration monitoring stations capture birds from broad areas of latitude, and migrants passing through each province appear to come from largely different portions of the Canadian breeding range, so a few stations placed in each province should suffice collectively to sample birds from most of the boreal forest. Migration monitoring in southern Canada, therefore, has the potential to monitor status of boreal forest birds in Canada that are unsampled by other monitoring programs.
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