, Volume 155, Issue 3, pp 417–427 | Cite as

Plasma metabolites and migration physiology of semipalmated sandpipers: refueling performance at five latitudes

  • James E. Lyons
  • Jaime A. Collazo
  • Christopher G. Guglielmo
Physiological Ecology - Original Article


Long-distance bird migration is fueled by energy gathered at stopover sites along the migration route. The refueling rate at stopover sites is a determinant of time spent at stopovers and impacts the overall speed of migration. Refueling rate during spring migration may influence the fitness of individuals via changes in the probability of successful migration and reproduction during the subsequent breeding season. We evaluated four plasma lipid metabolites (triglycerides, phospholipids, β-OH-butyrate, and glycerol) as measures of refueling rate in free-living semipalmated sandpipers (Calidris pusilla) captured at non-breeding areas. We described the spatial and temporal variation in metabolite concentrations among one winter site in the Dominican Republic and four stopover sites in the South Atlantic and Mid-Atlantic Coastal Plain regions of North America. Triglycerides and β-OH-butyrate clearly identified spatial variation in refueling rate and stopover habitat quality. Metabolite profiles indicated that birds had higher refueling rates at one site in the Mid-Atlantic Coastal Plain than at three sites on the South Atlantic Coastal Plain and one site in the Dominican Republic. Temporal variation in lipid metabolites during the migration season suggested that male semipalmated sandpipers gained more weight at stopovers on the South Atlantic Coastal Plain than did females, evidence of differential migration strategies for the sexes. Plasma lipid metabolites provide information on migration physiology that may help determine stopover habitat quality and reveal how migratory populations use stopover sites to refuel and successfully complete long-distance migrations.


Triglyceride Phospholipid β-OH-butyrate Glycerol Calidris pusilla 



We thank Aaron Brees, Francisco Collazo, Garth Herring, Jeff Hostetler, and Jordan Perkins for excellent assistance in the field. Sarah Converse and two anonymous reviewers provide valuable comments on the manuscript. Several individuals and institutions provided logistical support and we would like to specifically thank Robert Joyner, YWC; Marc Epstein, Merritt Island NWR; Bob Noffsinger, Pea Island NWR; and David Mizrahi, New Jersey Audubon Society. This work was funded by the Species at Risk Program of the U.S. Geological Survey and approved by the North Carolina State University Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (permit 01-050-0).


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • James E. Lyons
    • 1
    • 4
  • Jaime A. Collazo
    • 2
  • Christopher G. Guglielmo
    • 3
    • 5
  1. 1.Department of ZoologyNorth Carolina State UniversityRaleighUSA
  2. 2.Department of Zoology and U.S. Geological Survey, North Carolina Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research UnitNorth Carolina State UniversityRaleighUSA
  3. 3.Division of Biological SciencesUniversity of MontanaMissoulaUSA
  4. 4.U.S. Fish and Wildlife ServiceDivision of Migratory Bird ManagementLaurelUSA
  5. 5.Department of BiologyUniversity of Western OntarioLondonCanada

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