, Volume 25, Issue 6, pp 955-965
Date: 31 Mar 2010

Movement behaviour of a forest songbird in an urbanized landscape: the relative importance of patch-level effects and body condition during migratory stopover

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With expansion of urban areas worldwide, migrating songbirds increasingly encounter fragmented landscapes where habitat patches are embedded in an urban matrix, yet how migrating birds respond to urbanization is poorly understood. Our research evaluated the relative importance of patch-level effects and body condition to movement behaviour of songbirds during migratory stopover within an urban landscape. We experimentally relocated 91 migrant Swainson’s thrushes (Catharus ustulatus) fitted with 0.66 g radio-transmitters to seven forest patches that differed in area (0.7–38.4 ha) and degree of urbanization within central Ohio, USA, May 2004–2007. Fine-scale movement rate of thrushes (n = 55) did not differ among urban forest sites, but birds in low energetic condition moved at higher rates, indicating an energetically mediated influence on movement behaviour. In larger sites, Swainson’s thrushes (n = 59) had greater coarse-level movement during the first 3 days and utilized areas farther from forest edge, indicating stronger influence by patch-level factors. Thrushes exhibited strong site tenacity, with only five individuals (7%) leaving release patches prior to migratory departure. Movement outside the release patch only occurred at the smallest forest patches (0.7 and 4.5 ha), suggesting that these sites were too small to meet needs of some individuals. Swainson’s thrushes exhibited edge avoidance and apparent area sensitivity within urban forest patches during stopover, implying that conservation of larger patches within urban and other fragmented landscapes may benefit this species and other migrant forest birds.