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Volume 88, Issue 3 p. 445-460
Article

Constructing and evaluating a continent-wide migratory songbird network across the annual cycle

Samantha M. Knight

Corresponding Author

Samantha M. Knight

Department of Integrative Biology, University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario, N1G 2W1 Canada

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David W. Bradley

David W. Bradley

Department of Integrative Biology, University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario, N1G 2W1 Canada

Bird Studies Canada, Delta, British Columbia, V4K 3N2 Canada

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Robert G. Clark

Robert G. Clark

Environment and Climate Change Canada, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, S7N 0X4 Canada

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Elizabeth A. Gow

Elizabeth A. Gow

Department of Integrative Biology, University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario, N1G 2W1 Canada

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Marc Bélisle

Marc Bélisle

Département de Biologie, Université de Sherbrooke, Sherbrooke, Quebec, J1K 2R1 Canada

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Lisha L. Berzins

Lisha L. Berzins

Ecosystem Science and Management Program, University of Northern British Columbia, Prince George, British Columbia, V2N 4Z9 Canada

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Tricia Blake

Tricia Blake

Alaska Songbird Institute, Fairbanks, Alaska, 99708 USA

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Eli S. Bridge

Eli S. Bridge

Oklahoma Biological Survey, University of Oklahoma, Norman, Oklahoma, 73019 USA

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Lauren Burke

Lauren Burke

Department of Biology, Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, B3H 4R2 Canada

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Russell D. Dawson

Russell D. Dawson

Ecosystem Science and Management Program, University of Northern British Columbia, Prince George, British Columbia, V2N 4Z9 Canada

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Peter O. Dunn

Peter O. Dunn

Behavioral and Molecular Ecology Group, Department of Biological Sciences, University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, 53201 USA

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Dany Garant

Dany Garant

Département de Biologie, Université de Sherbrooke, Sherbrooke, Quebec, J1K 2R1 Canada

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Geoffrey L. Holroyd

Geoffrey L. Holroyd

Beaverhill Bird Observatory, Edmonton, Alberta, T5J 2N5 Canada

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David J. T. Hussell

David J. T. Hussell

Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, Peterborough, Ontario, K9J 7BS Canada

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Olga Lansdorp

Olga Lansdorp

Department of Biological Sciences, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, British Columbia, V5A 1S6 Canada

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Andrew J. Laughlin

Andrew J. Laughlin

Department of Environmental Studies, UNC Asheville, Asheville, North Carolina, 28804 USA

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Marty L. Leonard

Marty L. Leonard

Department of Biology, Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, B3H 4R2 Canada

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Fanie Pelletier

Fanie Pelletier

Département de Biologie, Université de Sherbrooke, Sherbrooke, Quebec, J1K 2R1 Canada

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Dave Shutler

Dave Shutler

Department of Biology, Acadia University, Wolfville, Nova Scotia, B4P 2R6 Canada

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Lynn Siefferman

Lynn Siefferman

Biology Department, Appalachian State University, Boone, North Carolina, 28608 USA

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Caz M. Taylor

Caz M. Taylor

Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Tulane University, New Orleans, Louisiana, 70118 USA

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Helen E. Trefry

Helen E. Trefry

Beaverhill Bird Observatory, Edmonton, Alberta, T5J 2N5 Canada

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Carol M. Vleck

Carol M. Vleck

Department of Ecology, Evolution and Organismal Biology, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa, 50011-1020 USA

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David Vleck

David Vleck

Department of Ecology, Evolution and Organismal Biology, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa, 50011-1020 USA

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David W. Winkler

David W. Winkler

Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Museum of Vertebrates, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, 14853 USA

Lab of Ornithology, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, 14853 USA

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Linda A. Whittingham

Linda A. Whittingham

Behavioral and Molecular Ecology Group, Department of Biological Sciences, University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, 53201 USA

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D. Ryan Norris

D. Ryan Norris

Department of Integrative Biology, University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario, N1G 2W1 Canada

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First published: 23 February 2018
Citations: 50
Corresponding Editor: Walt D. Koenig.

Abstract

Determining how migratory animals are spatially connected between breeding and non-breeding periods is essential for predicting the effects of environmental change and for developing optimal conservation strategies. Yet, despite recent advances in tracking technology, we lack comprehensive information on the spatial structure of migratory networks across a species’ range, particularly for small-bodied, long-distance migratory animals. We constructed a migratory network for a songbird and used network-based metrics to characterize the spatial structure and prioritize regions for conservation. The network was constructed using year-round movements derived from 133 archival light-level geolocators attached to Tree Swallows (Tachycineta bicolor) originating from 12 breeding sites across their North American breeding range. From these breeding sites, we identified 10 autumn stopover nodes (regions) in North America, 13 non-breeding nodes located around the Gulf of Mexico, Mexico, Florida, and the Caribbean, and 136 unique edges (migratory routes) connecting nodes. We found strong migratory connectivity between breeding and autumn stopover sites and moderate migratory connectivity between the breeding and non-breeding sites. We identified three distinct “communities” of nodes that corresponded to western, central, and eastern North American flyways. Several regions were important for maintaining network connectivity, with South Florida and Louisiana as the top ranked non-breeding nodes and the Midwest as the top ranked stopover node. We show that migratory songbird networks can have both a high degree of mixing between seasons yet still show regionally distinct migratory flyways. Such information will be crucial for accurately predicting factors that limit and regulate migratory songbirds throughout the annual cycle. Our study highlights how network-based metrics can be valuable for identifying overall network structure and prioritizing specific regions within a network for conserving a wide variety of migratory animals.