Pennsylvania Game News - March 2015 - 34

Neotropical Returns: Tracking the annual travels
of migratory birds can identify threats they face. Are
they spending winters in tropical areas experiencing
rapid deforestation or drought? Is habitat being lost at their
stopover areas? Our ability to determine the migratory
paths and wintering grounds of small songbirds has
increased dramatically in the last 10 years. Researchers
used to rely solely on bird banding to track migrants, which required that birds
be recaptured or found dead in a different location than where they were banded.
For small birds, such as warblers, getting a band return is a rare event indeed.
Even then, we only learn where the bird was on that day, with no information
on the route it took to get there, or how long it remained in the area. Satellite
transmitters provide precise location data at regular time intervals, but they are
too heavy to place on small songbirds. Recently, devices called light-level geolocators have been used in studies of songbirds. These devices are lightweight
and can be carried by some of our smallest species. They work by recording
light levels throughout the day. From this information, day length, sunrise and
sunset times can be calculated. In turn, we can determine the bird's approximate latitude (from day length) and longitude (from sunrise and sunset times).
However, the devices don't transmit data - it's stored in the unit. So to retrieve
the data, the bird must be recaptured the following year when it returns to its
breeding grounds. In 2014, the Game Commission used Pittman-Robertson
funds to support a project examining migratory pathways of cerulean warblers,
which have experienced long-term declines across their range. Researchers at
Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Arkansas State University, and the U.S.
Forest Service-Northern Research Station affixed geolocators - weighing less
than a quarter of a penny - on the backs of 10 cerulean warblers in northwestern
Pennsylvania. The team will be back out in the woods in the spring of 2015 attempting to recapture these birds and discover where they traveled while away
from their Pennsylvania breeding grounds.
- Nate Zalik, Wildlife Diversity Grants Coordinator
More Is Better: Most waterfowl biologists
rely on one banding period just before
hunting season to estimate annual waterfowl survival, harvest rates and seasonal
movement patterns. However, for certain
species, including black ducks, more specific
34

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Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Pennsylvania Game News - March 2015

Contents
Pennsylvania Game News - March 2015 - Intro
Pennsylvania Game News - March 2015 - Cover1
Pennsylvania Game News - March 2015 - Cover2
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Pennsylvania Game News - March 2015 - BB1
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Pennsylvania Game News - March 2015 - Cover3
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