Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 62, Issue 9, pp 1499–1508 | Cite as

Migratory orientation of juvenile yellow-rumped warblers (Dendroica coronata) following stopover: sources of variation and the importance of geographic origins

  • Trina M. FitzgeraldEmail author
  • Philip D. Taylor
Original Paper


Birds migrating along coastlines may be at increased risk if displacement occurs toward open-ocean. Eastern North America experiences prevailing northwesterly winds during autumn, which could compel some migrants to drift eastward. Therefore, migrants at stop-over sites along this route may be a mixture of on- and off-course individuals. We assessed whether orientation behavior of juvenile yellow-rumped warblers (Dendroica coronata) captured at a stop-over site in southern Nova Scotia was related to where they originated from (i.e., likely on/off-course). We hypothesized three scenarios after displacement: 1) continued orientation in the migratory direction selected before displacement, 2) orientation from the new location toward the previous destination, or 3) correction to regain the original pathway. Using stable isotopes, we determined that stop-over migrants originated from nearby areas (and assumed on-course) and as far away as western Hudson Bay, over 1,600 km northwest (and assumed off-course) of the site. We used video-based orientation registration cages to determine an individuals’ migratory orientation. Because numerous factors influence migratory orientation (e.g., fuel reserves, celestial cues), we simultaneously assessed the influence of body condition and cloud cover, in addition to geographic origin, on orientation behavior. Individuals that originated closer to the site tended to orient more southwesterly. Orientation directions became increasingly more west-northwesterly the further away an individual originated from the site (i.e., the more likely it was to have been displaced). The result is most consistent with scenario three: individuals from northwest origins likely respond to easterly displacement by orienting westerly to reestablish their previous migratory route.


Orientation Migration Yellow-rumped warbler Natural displacement Stopover 



This project received financial support from Acadia University, the Atlantic Cooperative Wildlife Ecology Research Network, and the Government of Canada’s Climate Change Impacts and Adaptation Program. We appreciate the efforts of L. Adams, R. Fitzgerald, M. O’Brien, and R. Watkins, who all provided valuable logistical support. We also thank A. Bond, W. Fitzgerald, P. Goulet, J. Nocera, and M. Peckford for field assistance. D. Crooks and A. Mitchell provided lab space, equipment, and experience that aided in processing videotaped trials. A. Mullie assisted with the graphics. This manuscript benefited from comments by J. Nocera, D. Shutler, and several anonymous reviewers. Scientific permits to hold yellow-rumped warblers in captivity were obtained from Canadian Wildlife Service. The experiments complied with the laws of Canada at the time they were done.


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© Springer-Verlag 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Atlantic Bird Observatory, Canadian Migration Monitoring Network, Atlantic Cooperative Wildlife Ecology Research Network, Department of BiologyAcadia UniversityWolfvilleCanada

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