Stable isotope and band-encounter analyses delineate migratory patterns and catchment areas of white-throated sparrows at a migration monitoring station
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- Mazerolle, D.F., Hobson, K.A. & Wassenaar, L.I. Oecologia (2005) 144: 541. doi:10.1007/s00442-005-0031-6
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The Canadian Migration Monitoring Network consists of several fixed migration monitoring stations (MMS) that apply constant-effort protocols to track changes in the abundance of migratory birds. Such monitoring will be important for tracking long-term population trends of songbirds, especially for species breeding in remote areas such as the North American boreal forest. The geographical catchment sampled by individual MMS, however, remains largely unknown. Here, we used hydrogen isotope measurements (δD) of feathers of white-throated sparrows (Zonotrichia albicollis) moving through Delta Marsh MMS in Manitoba, Canada, to determine both wintering and breeding ground catchment areas monitored by this station. The δD of tail feathers, collected from spring and fall migrants delineated previous breeding or natal latitudes, ranging from the northern to the southern extremes of the western boreal forest. The δD values of head feathers grown on the wintering grounds and collected during spring migration revealed that individuals wintered in a broad region of the southeastern United States. The isotope data showed no relationship between estimated breeding/natal and wintering latitudes of white-throated sparrow populations. Stable isotope data provided little information on longitude. Band-encounter analyses, however, indicated a clear east–west segregation of these sparrows across Canada, supporting connectivity among breeding/natal and wintering longitudes over the entire scale of this species' range. Isotope analyses of multiple feather types representing different periods and geographic regions of the annual cycle can provide key information on migratory connectivity for species moving through dedicated MMS.