, Volume 74, Issue 1, pp 47-54

Stopover and fat deposition by North American wood-warblers (Parulinae) following spring migration over the Gulf of Mexico

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Summary

Length of stopover and rate of weight gain (fat deposition) were studied in several species of passerine birds that stopped in southwestern Louisiana along the northern coast of the Gulf of Mexico after a trans-Gulf flight. Fatdepleted birds were more common among the birds that arrived at our study site in southwest Louisiana, though variability characterized our samples. Migrants that landed after encountering opposing winds or rain over the northern Gulf of Mexico were, on average, fatter than migrants that landed when weather was favorable for continued migration. Some of the variation in the energetic condition of arrivals may be explained by the location where migrants initiated crossings. Our simulation of flight over the Gulf of Mexico showed that with following winds a warbler can cross the Gulf of Mexico from Yucatan with fat reserves to spare, and stronger tailwinds make flights from as far south as Honduras energetically permissible. The length of stay after a trans-Gulf flight was related to the extent of fat-depletion upon arrival: lean birds stayed longer than fat migrants. Migrants stopped over for 1–7 days and replenished energy reserves at rates that varied from 0.19 g/d for Hooded Warblers (Wilsonia citrina) to 0.87 g/d for Ovenbirds (Seiurus aurocapillus). Within each species, most individuals gained weight at a rapid rate, though a few individuals lost or maintained weight during their stay.