Seasonal Events and Associated Carry-over Effects in a Neotropical Migratory Songbird: The Yellow Warbler

Andrea Lindsay, MS Candidate
Paul Rodewald

Events occurring during one stage of a bird’s life cycle have the potential to carry-over and affect activities during subsequent stages. As a result, evidence of relationships between breeding and non-breeding (winter, migration) events has become increasingly important for identifying factors that may limit populations of migratory songbirds. Although very few studies of migratory birds have addressed the topic, poor winter habitat quality has been shown to delay departure from wintering areas, delay arrival in breeding areas, and result in lower reproductive success. The relative quality of winter habitats is reflected in stable-carbon isotopes in feathers molted during winter, so that analysis of feather isotopes should reveal whether a bird wintered in a dry, lower quality (xeric) habitat or a wet, higher quality (mesic) habitat. This project focuses on seasonal events and associated carry-over effects in a Neotropical migratory songbird, the Yellow Warbler (Dendroi ca petechia). The Yellow Warbler is the most abundant breeding wood-warbler in North America, breeding throughout much of the United States and Canada, and wintering from Mexico and the Caribbean to northern South America. This species breeds in moist shrub-dominated habitats, but during winter Yellow Warblers use both mesic and more xeric habitats. This study is being conducted in shrubby wetlands in the Western Basin of Lake Erie of northwestern Ohio. My research will examine relationships between winter habitat quality (as assessed by stable-carbon isotope analysis) and plumage coloration, molt status, arrival date, and reproductive success in the Yellow Warbler. This research will improve our understanding of how seasonal events may interact to influence the breeding periods of migratory landbirds.


Funding Source: Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center

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