53 research outputs found

    Coping with the Cold: An Ecological Context for the Abundance and Distribution of Rock Sandpipers during Winter in Upper Cook Inlet, Alaska

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    Shorebirds are conspicuous and abundant at high northern latitudes during spring and summer, but as seasonal conditions deteriorate, few remain during winter. To the best of our knowledge, Cook Inlet, Alaska (60.6˚ N, 151.6˚ W), is the world’s coldest site that regularly supports wintering populations of shorebirds, and it is also the most northerly nonbreeding location for shorebirds in the Pacific Basin. During the winters of 1997–2012, we conducted aerial surveys of upper Cook Inlet to document the spatial and temporal distribution and number of Rock Sandpipers (Calidris ptilocnemis) using the inlet. The average survey total was 8191 ± 6143 SD birds, and the average of each winter season’s highest single-day count was 13 603 ± 4948 SD birds. We detected only Rock Sandpipers during our surveys, essentially all of which were individuals of the nominate subspecies (C. p. ptilocnemis). Survey totals in some winters closely matched the population estimate for this subspecies, demonstrating the region’s importance as a nonbreeding resource to the subspecies. Birds were most often found at only a handful of sites in upper Cook Inlet, but shifted their distribution to more southerly locations in the inlet during periods of extreme cold. Two environmental factors allow Rock Sandpipers to inhabit Cook Inlet during winter: 1) an abundant bivalve (Macoma balthica) food source and 2) current and tidal dynamics that keep foraging substrates accessible during all but extreme periods of cold and ice accretion. C. p. ptilocnemis is a subspecies of high conservation concern for which annual winter surveys may serve as a relatively inexpensive population-monitoring tool that will also provide insight into adaptations that allow these birds to exploit high-latitude environments in winter.Le printemps et l’été, les oiseaux de rivage abondent et sont bien en vue dans les latitudes de l’extrême nord, mais au fur et à mesure que les conditions saisonnières se détériorent, peu d’entre eux hivernent dans ces régions. Au meilleur de nos connaissances, l’anse Cook, en Alaska (60,6˚ N, 151,6˚ O), est l’endroit le plus froid du monde où l’on trouve régulièrement des populations d’oiseaux de rivage l’hiver. Il s’agit aussi de l’emplacement le plus nordique du bassin du Pacifique à ne pas être consacré à la reproduction des oiseaux de rivage. Au cours des hivers allant de 1997 à 2012, nous avons réalisé des levés aériens de la partie supérieure de l’anse Cook afin d’être en mesure de répertorier la répartition spatiale, la répartition temporelle et le nombre de bécasseaux des Aléoutiennes (Calidris ptilocnemis) dans l’anse. Le total moyen des levés a permis de repérer8 191 ± 6 143 (DS) oiseaux, tandis que la moyenne du dénombrement le plus élevé au cours d’une seule journée d’hiver était de 13 603 ± 4 948 (DS) oiseaux. Dans le cadre de nos levés, nous n’avons détecté que des bécasseaux des Aléoutiennes, dont tous étaient essentiellement des individus de la sous-espèce désignée (C. p. ptilocnemis). Au cours de certains hivers, les totaux des levés se rapprochaient beaucoup des estimations de population de cette sous-espèce, ce qui laisse entrevoir l’importance de cette région en tant que ressource de non-reproduction pour cette sous-espèce. La plupart du temps, ces oiseaux ne se retrouvaient qu’à quelques endroits de la partie supérieure de l’anse Cook, bien qu’ils se répartissaient plus au sud de l’anse pendant les périodes de froid extrême. Deux facteurs environnementaux permettent aux bécasseaux des Aléoutiennes d’évoluer dans l’anse Cook l’hiver : 1) une source abondante de nourriture acéphale (Macoma balthica) et 2) une dynamique de courants et de marées qui a constamment pour effet d’alimenter les oiseaux en substrat pendant toutes les périodes, sauf celles de froid extrême et d’accrétion de glace. C. p. ptilocnemis est une sous-espèce dont la conservation présente de grandes inquiétudes et pour laquelle les levés hivernaux annuels peuvent constituer un outil de surveillance de population relativement abordable qui permettra également d’en savoir plus sur les adaptations qui permettent à ces oiseaux d’exploiter les milieux de haute latitude l’hiver

    Hidden in plain sight:migration routes of the elusive Anadyr bartailed godwit revealed by satellite tracking

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    Satellite and GPS tracking technology continues to reveal new migration patterns of birds which enables comparative studies of migration strategies and distributional information useful in conservation. Bar-tailed godwits in the East Asian–Australasian Flyway Limosa lapponica baueri and L. l. menzbieri are known for their long non-stop flights, however these populations are in steep decline. A third subspecies in this flyway, L. l. anadyrensis, breeds in the Anadyr River basin, Chukotka, Russia, and is morphologically distinct from menzbieri and baueri based on comparison of museum specimens collected from breeding areas. However, the non-breeding distribution, migration route and population size of anadyrensis are entirely unknown. Among 24 female bar-tailed godwits tracked in 2015–2018 from northwest Australia, the main non-breeding area for menzbieri, two birds migrated further east than the rest to breed in the Anadyr River basin, i.e. they belonged to the anadyrensis subspecies. During pre-breeding migration, all birds staged in the Yellow Sea and then flew to the breeding grounds in the eastern Russian Arctic. After breeding, these two birds migrated southwestward to stage in Russia on the Kamchatka Peninsula and on Sakhalin Island en route to the Yellow Sea. This contrasts with the other 22 tracked godwits that followed the previously described route of menzbieri, i.e. they all migrated northwards to stage in the New Siberian Islands before turning south towards the Yellow Sea, and onwards to northwest Australia. Since the Kamchatka Peninsula was not used by any of the tracked menzbieri birds, the 4500 godwits counted in the Khairusova–Belogolovaya estuary in western Kamchatka may well be anadyrensis. Comparing migration patterns across the three bar-tailed godwits subspecies, the migration strategy of anadyrensis lies between that of menzbieri and baueri. Future investigations combining migration tracks with genomic data could reveal how differences in migration routines are evolved and maintained

    Change in Abundance of Pacific Brant Wintering in Alaska: Evidence of a Climate Warming Effect?

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    Winter distribution of Pacific Flyway brant (Branta bernicla nigricans) has shifted northward from low-temperate areas to sub-Arctic areas over the last 42 years. We assessed the winter abundance and distribution of brant in Alaska to evaluate whether climate warming may be contributing to positive trends in the most northern of the wintering populations. Mean surface air temperatures during winter at the end of the Alaska Peninsula increased about 1°C between 1963 and 2004, resulting in a 23% reduction in freezing degree days and a 34% decline in the number of days when ice cover prevents birds from accessing food resources. Trends in the wintering population fluctuated with states of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, increasing during positive (warm) phases and decreasing during negative (cold) phases, and this correlation provides support for the hypothesis that growth in the wintering population of brant in Alaska is linked to climate warming. The size of the wintering population was negatively correlated with the number of days of strong northwesterly winds in November, which suggests that the occurrence of tailwinds favorable for migration before the onset of winter was a key factor in whether brant migrated from Alaska or remained there during winter. Winter distribution of brant on the Alaska Peninsula was highly variable and influenced by ice cover, particularly at the heavily used Izembek Lagoon. Observations of previously marked brant indicated that the Alaska wintering population was composed primarily of birds originating from Arctic breeding colonies that appear to be growing. Numbers of brant in Alaska during winter will likely increase as temperatures rise and ice cover decreases at high latitudes in response to climate warming.Au cours des 42 dernières années, la répartition de la bernache cravant du Pacifique (Branta bernicla nigricans) s’est déplacée vers le nord en hiver, passant ainsi de régions faiblement tempérées à des régions subarctiques. Nous avons évalué l’abondance et la répartition de la bernache en Alaska l’hiver afin de tenter de déterminer si le réchauffement climatique contribue aux tendances positives au sein des populations d’hivernage les plus au nord. Les températures moyennes de l’air à la surface en hiver se sont accrues d’environ 1°C entre 1963 et 2004, ce qui s’est traduit par une réduction de 23 % du nombre de jours atteignant le point de congélation et d’une diminution de 34 % du nombre de jours pendant lesquels la couverture de glace empêche les oiseaux d’avoir accès aux ressources alimentaires. Les tendances caractérisant la population d’hivernage fluctuaient en fonction des états de l’oscillation pacifique décennale en ce sens qu’elles augmentaient pendant les phases positives (tièdes) et qu’elles baissaient pendant les phases négatives (froides). Cette corrélation vient appuyer l’hypothèse selon laquelle la croissance de la population d’hivernage de la bernache en Alaska est liée au réchauffement climatique. L’effectif de la population d’hivernage a été négativement corrélé au nombre de jours de vents forts en provenance du nord-ouest en novembre, ce qui laisse croire que l’occurrence de vents arrières favorables à la migration avant le début de l’hiver constituait un facteur-clé déterminant si une bernache migrait de l’Alaska ou y restait pendant l’hiver. Dans la péninsule de l’Alaska, la répartition de la bernache en hiver variait énormément et dépendait de la couverture de glace, surtout à la lagune Izembek particulièrement achalandée. Les observations de bernaches déjà marquées ont permis de constater que la population d’hivernage de l’Alaska était principalement composée d’oiseaux provenant des colonies de reproduction de l’Arctique qui semblent prendre de l’ampleur. Le nombre de bernaches en Alaska pendant l’hiver augmentera vraisemblablement au fur et à mesure que les températures augmenteront et que les couvertures de glace diminueront en haute latitude en raison du réchauffement climatique

    Paula, the pioneer

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    One tagged Red Knot commutes from Wadden Sea to Canadian breeding grounds and finally shows us the details of this migratio

    When a typical jumper skips:Itineraries and staging habitats used by Red Knots (<i>Calidris canutus piersmai</i>) migrating between northwest Australia and the New Siberian Islands

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    The ecological reasons for variation in avian migration, with some populations migrating across thousands of kilometres between breeding and non-breeding areas with one or few refuelling stops, in contrast to others that stop more often, remain to be pinned down. Red Knots Calidris canutus are a textbook example of a shorebird species that makes long migrations with only a few stops. Recognizing that such behaviours are not necessarily species-specific but determined by ecological context, we here provide a description of the migrations of a relatively recently described subspecies (piersmai). Based on data from tagging of Red Knots on the terminal non-breeding grounds in northwest Australia with 4.5- and 2.5-g solar-powered Platform Terminal Transmitters (PTTs) and 1.0-g geolocators, we obtained information on 19 route-records of 17 individuals, resulting in seven complete return migrations. We confirm published evidence that Red Knots of the piersmai subspecies migrate from NW Australia and breed on the New Siberian Islands in the Russian Arctic and that they stage along the coasts of southeastern Asia, especially in the northern Yellow Sea in China. Red Knots arrived on the tundra breeding grounds from 8 June onwards. Southward departures mainly occurred in the last week of July and the first week of August. We documented six non-stop flights of over c. 5000 km (with a maximum of 6500 km, lasting 6.6 days). Nevertheless, rather than staging at a single location for multiple weeks halfway during migration, piersmai-knots made several stops of up to a week. This was especially evident during northward migration, when birds often stopped along the way in southeast Asia and 'hugged' the coast of China, thus flying an additional 1000-1500 km compared with the shortest possible (great circle route) flights between NW Australia and the Yellow Sea. The birds staged longest in areas in northern China, along the shores of Bohai Bay and upper Liaodong Bay, where the bivalve Potamocorbula laevis, known as a particularly suitable food for Red Knots, was present. The use of multiple food-rich stopping sites during northward migration by piersmai is atypical among subspecies of Red Knots. Although piersmai apparently has the benefit of multiple suitable stopping areas along the flyway, it is a subspecies in decline and their mortality away from the NW Australian non-breeding grounds has been elevated

    Central-West Siberian-breeding Bar-tailed Godwits (<i>Limosa lapponica</i>) segregate in two morphologically distinct flyway populations

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    Long-distance migratory species often include multiple breeding populations, with distinct migration routes, wintering areas and annual-cycle timing. Detailed knowledge on population structure and migratory connectivity provides the basis for studies on the evolution of migration strategies and for species conservation. Currently, five subspecies of Bar-tailed Godwits Limosa lapponica have been described. However, with two apparently separate breeding and wintering areas, the taxonomic status of the subspecies L. l. taymyrensis remains unclear. Here we compare taymyrensis Bar-tailed Godwits wintering in the Middle East and West Africa, respectively, with respect to migration behaviour, breeding area, morphology and population genetic differentation in mitochondrial DNA. By tracking 52 individuals from wintering and staging areas over multiple years, we show that Bar-tailed Godwits wintering in the Middle East bred on the northern West-Siberian Plain (n = 19), while birds from West Africa bred further east, mostly on the Taimyr Peninsula (n = 12). The two groups differed significantly in body size and shape, and also in the timing of both northward and southward migrations. However, they were not genetically differentiated, indicating that the phenotypic (i.e. geographical, morphological and phenological) differences arose either very recently or without current reproductive isolation. We conclude that the taymyrensis taxon consists of two distinct populations with mostly non-overlapping flyways, which warrant treatment as separate taxonomic units. We propose to distinguish a more narrowly defined taymyrensis subspecies (i.e. the Bar-tailed Godwits wintering in West Africa and breeding on Taimyr), from a new subspecies (i.e. the birds wintering in the Middle East and breeding on the northern West-Siberian Plain)

    A red knot as a black swan:How a single bird shows navigational abilities during repeat crossings of the Greenland Icecap

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    Despite the wealth of studies on seasonal movements of birds between southern nonbreeding locations and High Arctic breeding locations, the key mechanisms of navigation during these migrations remain elusive. A flight along the shortest possible route between pairs of points on a sphere ('orthodrome') requires a bird to be able to assess its current location in relation to its migration goal and to make continuous adjustment of heading to reach that goal. Alternatively, birds may navigate along a vector with a fixed orientation ('loxodrome') based on magnetic and/or celestial compass mechanisms. Compass navigation is considered especially challenging for summer migrations in Polar regions, as continuous daylight and complexity in the geomagnetic field may complicate the use of both celestial and magnetic compasses here. We examine the possible use of orientation mechanisms during migratory flights across the Greenland Icecap. Using a novel 2 g solar-powered satellite transmitter, we documented the flight paths travelled by a female red knotCalidris canutus islandicaduring two northward and two southward migrations. The geometry of the paths suggests that red knots can migrate across the Greenland Icecap along the shortest-, orthodrome-like, path instead of the previously suggested loxodrome path. This particular bird's ability to return to locations visited in a previous year, together with its sudden course changes (which would be appropriate responses to ambient wind fields), suggest a map sense that enables red knots to determine location, so that they can tailor their route depending on local conditions

    Publisher Correction:Fuelling conditions at staging sites can mitigate Arctic warming effects in a migratory bird (Nature Communications, (2018), 9, 1, (4263), 10.1038/s41467-018-06673-5)

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    In the original HTML version of this Article, the order of authors within the author list was incorrect. The consortium VRS Castricum was incorrectly listed after Theunis Piersma and should have been listed after Cornelis J. Camphuysen. This error has been corrected in the HTML version of the Article; the PDF version was correct at the time of publication

    Fuelling conditions at staging sites can mitigate Arctic warming effects in a migratory bird

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    Under climate warming, migratory birds should align reproduction dates with advancing plant and arthropod phenology. To arrive on the breeding grounds earlier, migrants may speed up spring migration by curtailing the time spent en route, possibly at the cost of decreased survival rates. Based on a decades-long series of observations along an entire flyway, we show that when refuelling time is limited, variation in food abundance in the spring staging area affects fitness. Bar-tailed godwits migrating from West Africa to the Siberian Arctic reduce refuelling time at their European staging site and thus maintain a close match between breeding and tundra phenology. Annual survival probability decreases with shorter refuelling times, but correlates positively with refuelling rate, which in turn is correlated with food abundance in the staging area. This chain of effects implies that conditions in the temperate zone determine the ability of godwits to cope with climate-related changes in the Arctic
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