Sandpiper detectives pinpoint trouble spots in continent-wide migration
A Semipalmated Sandpiper wears a geolocator that allows researchers to track its migratory movements.
Credit: B. Winn
Understanding and managing migratory animal populations requires knowing what’s going on with them during all stages of their annual cycle — and how those stages affect each other. The annual cycle can be especially difficult to study for species that breed in the Arctic and winter in South America. A new study from The Condor: Ornithological Applications tackles this problem for Semipalmated Sandpipers, historically one of the most widespread and numerous shorebird species of the Western Hemisphere, whose populations in some areas have undergone mysterious declines in recent years.
“This study was a response to the discovery of a large decline in the population of Semipalmated Sandpipers in the core of their wintering area in South America, and the need to determine which birds were involved. We didn’t know if the decline affected the entire population or just part of it,” says Brown. “Bringing together the 18 partner organizations that worked collaboratively on this project allowed us to track the migration pathways used by Semipalmated Sandpipers at the enormous geographical scale of their entire North American Arctic breeding range and provided critical new information about what sites are important to protect to support their recovery.”
“The authors here present one of the few studies that examine year-round connectivity, including stopover sites, of Arctic-breeding shorebirds,” according to the University of Guelph’s Ryan Norris, an expert on migration tracking who was not involved with the study. “Multi-site, range-wide studies on connectivity, such as this, are critical if we are to understand the population consequences of environmental change in migratory birds.”
Sources: Stanford University
Stephen Brown, Cheri Gratto-Trevor, Ron Porter, Emily L. Weiser, David Mizrahi, Rebecca Bentzen, Megan Boldenow, Rob Clay, Scott Freeman, Marie-Andrée Giroux, Eunbi Kwon, David B. Lank, Nicolas Lecomte, Joe Liebezeit, Vanessa Loverti, Jennie Rausch, Brett K. Sandercock, Shiloh Schulte, Paul Smith, Audrey Taylor, Brad Winn, Stephen Yezerinac, Richard B. Lanctot.Migratory connectivity of Semipalmated Sandpipers and implications for conservation. The Condor, 2017; 119 (2): 207 DOI: 10.1650/CONDOR-16-55.1