Widely distributed breeding populations of Canada warbler (Cardellina canadensis) converge on migration through Central America

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Abstract

Background: To effectively conserve migratory species, the entire range encompassed by their annual life cycle needs to be considered. Most research on Nearctic-Neotropical migratory birds has focused on the breeding grounds resulting in a general lack of knowledge regarding the wintering and migratory periods. The Canada Warbler (Cardellina canadensis) has declined by 71% from 1970 to 2012, at a rate of 2.9% per year, and is listed as Threatened in Canada. As with most Nearctic-Neotropical migrants, conservation efforts outside the breeding range are limited by a poor understanding of migration routes and the connectivity between specific breeding and wintering populations. Results: To determine migratory routes of multiple breeding populations of Canada Warblers, we directly-Tracked individuals using light-level geolocators deployed at four sites across the breeding range, spanning approximately 43 degrees in longitude (Alberta, Manitoba and Québec, Canada, and New Hampshire, USA). Twenty-five geolocators with usable data were recovered from three sites and were analyzed using FlightR to determine fall migration routes (n = 18) and individual wintering sites (n = 25). Individuals from all breeding populations took a western fall migration route at the Gulf of Mexico; with 77.8% of birds funnelling into a narrow geographic space along the western side of the Gulf of Mexico (97°W-99°W). We found no evidence for population-specific, parallel migration routes. Most individuals (72%) overwintered in Colombia. The remaining individuals overwintered in Venezuela. Conclusions: Our results demonstrate convergence of migratory routes around a migration barrier for individuals originating from widely distributed breeding areas. Further, we suggest the potential importance of habitat around the Gulf of Mexico during migration and Andean forest in Colombia as overwintering habitat for this threatened species. Future research should be directed at understanding how these areas are used by Canada Warblers.

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Roberto-Charron, A., Kennedy, J., Reitsma, L., Tremblay, J. A., Krikun, R., Hobson, K. A., … Fraser, K. C. (2020). Widely distributed breeding populations of Canada warbler (Cardellina canadensis) converge on migration through Central America. BMC Zoology, 5(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s40850-020-00056-4

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