Fall migratory departure decisions and routes of Blackpoll Warblers Setophaga striata and Red-eyed Vireos Vireo olivaceus at a coastal barrier in the Gulf of Maine

Smetzer, Jennifer; King, D.; Taylor, Philip

29 July 2017

Each year, millions of songbirds concentrate in coastal areas during fall migration. The choices birds make at the coast about stopover habitat use and migratory route can influence both the success of their migratory journey and fitness in subsequent life stages. We made use of a regional-scale automated radio telemetry array to study stopover and migratory flights and migratory routes of Blackpoll Warblers Setophaga striata and Red-eyed Vireos Vireo olivaceus during fall migration in the Gulf of Maine, USA. We focused on differences between species, sexes, age groups, breeding origins, and time of year. Both species made within-stopover relocations (i.e. ‘stopover flights’) from the coastal capture site. Stopover flights were primarily oriented inland, and were more frequent for blackpolls (87%) than vireos (44%). By studying migratory behavior at a broad spatial scale, we demonstrated that most blackpolls and vireos took coastal and offshore routes through the Gulf of Maine, despite initially relocating inland from the capture site. Though we captured blackpolls and vireos from a broad breeding range, more than 70% of migratory flights from the capture site were oriented for coastal or offshore travel for both species, suggesting that birds actively chose coastal and offshore routes, and were not simply displaced by wind drift. Later vireos oriented offshore more frequently during migratory flights from the coast, indicating that they may be more inclined towards time-minimizing overwater flight routes and thus more exposed to coastal and offshore collision hazards than earlier conspecifics.