Migratory connectivity of a Neotropical migratory songbird revealed by archival light-level geolocators


  • Corresponding Editor: D. S. Schimel.


Understanding migratory connectivity is critical for interpreting population dynamics, seasonal interactions, and for the implementation of conservation strategies of migratory species. We evaluated the migratory connectivity of a Neotropical migratory songbird, the Ovenbird (Seiurus aurocapilla) using archival light-level geolocators deployed at two breeding and four nonbreeding locations while incorporating Ovenbird abundance as prior information using Bayes' Rule. We also included band recoveries submitted to the United States Geological Survey's Bird Banding Laboratory to assess connectivity of areas where geolocators were not deployed. We created a probabilistic map of origin for each capture site and mapped spring migration routes between nonbreeding and breeding locations. We found a complete separation of eastern and western populations of Ovenbirds throughout the annual cycle. Breeding Ovenbirds from western Canada spent the nonbreeding season throughout Central America and migrated through central North America during spring migration. Birds breeding in the northeastern United States were distributed throughout the central Greater Antilles in the Caribbean and migrated through eastern North America during spring migration. Fall migration routes were not included because the timing of migration coincided with fall equinox when latitudinal estimates are unreliable. However, longitudinal estimates suggest no overlap between eastern and western populations during fall migration. Ovenbirds with geolocators attached in Jamaica bred in the northeastern United States with the highest posterior probability of origin found in Massachusetts, while Ovenbirds captured in Florida and Puerto Rico bred primarily in the mid-Atlantic. Incorporating Ovenbird abundance as a prior into geolocator estimates decreased the area of origin by 90.37% ± 1.05% (mean ± SE) for the breeding season and 62.30% ± 1.69% for the nonbreeding season, compared to geolocator estimates alone. Ovenbirds exhibited strong migratory connectivity between breeding and nonbreeding season, which has important implications for various aspects of the ecology, evolution, and conservation.