Premigratory movements of a long-distance migratory species: the Wood Thrush (Hylocichla mustelina)

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Virginia Tech

The postbreeding period in migratory bird species is an important, but often neglected,area of knowledge. From May-October of 1993-95, I studied the breeding andpostbreeding ecology of 61 adults and postfledging movement of 43 juveniles in aradio-tagged population of Wood Thrushes (Hylocichla mustelina) on the U. S. MarineCorps Base, Quantico, Virginia (38 30' N, 77 25' W). Fledglings became independent 0 0from their parents at 28-36 days post hatching and dispersed 307-5300 m from their natalsites to join flocks of conspecifics. About half (46%) of the young birds stayed in onedispersal site until migrating, but the rest visited other sites. In 40 instances, 15fledglings moved up to 6 km out of the dispersal site and, after 1-5 days, returned to thelocality occupied before initiating the movement. After dispersal, fledglings' positions(n = 556) occurred in (1) second growth and sapling stage sites at the edge of forested areas [52%], (2) gypsy moth (Lymantria dispar) damaged deciduous forest [21.8%], (3)Virginia pine (Pinus virginianus) forest that had a heavy understory of young deciduous trees and an open canopy [15.6%], and (4) mature mixed forest [10.6%]. Most fledglings(73%) left the Marine Base in September at the mean age of 81 days. After finishing breeding, adult Wood Thrushes underwent molt that extended from late July to early October. Flight-feather molt lasted on average 38 days and may have impaired flight efficiency in some individuals. Of 30 observed adults, 15 molted in the same area where they nested, and 15 moved 545 to 7290 m from their nesting sites. Molting sites were located in areas with a larger number of pines, less canopy cover, fewer trees with dbh>38 cm, and a denser understory strata than nesting sites (P < 0.1). My data suggest that a conservation strategy that focuses on identifying and protecting nesting habitat in the temperate region, although important, is incomplete at best if the events and needs during the post reproductive and post fledging periods are not considered.

molt, habitat use, dispersal, radiotelemetry, Wood Thrush, conservation