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1.  Cross-hemisphere migration of a 25 g songbird 
Biology Letters  2012;8(4):505-507.
The northern wheatear (Oenanthe oenanthe) is a small (approx. 25 g), insectivorous migrant with one of the largest ranges of any songbird in the world, breeding from the eastern Canadian Arctic across Greenland, Eurasia and into Alaska (AK). However, there is no evidence that breeding populations in the New World have established overwintering sites in the Western Hemisphere. Using light-level geolocators, we demonstrate that individuals from these New World regions overwinter in northern sub-Sahara Africa, with Alaskan birds travelling approximately 14 500 km each way and an eastern Canadian Arctic bird crossing a wide stretch of the North Atlantic (approx. 3500 km). These remarkable journeys, particularly for a bird of this size, last between one to three months depending on breeding location and season (autumn/spring) and result in mean overall migration speeds of up to 290 km d−1. Stable-hydrogen isotope analysis of winter-grown feathers sampled from breeding birds generally support the notion that Alaskan birds overwinter primarily in eastern Africa and eastern Canadian Arctic birds overwinter mainly in western Africa. Our results provide the first evidence of a migratory songbird capable of linking African ecosystems of the Old World with Arctic regions of the New World.
PMCID: PMC3391447  PMID: 22337504
Africa; geolocator; northern wheatear; stable-hydrogen isotopes
2.  Lekking birds in a tropical forest forego sex for migration 
Biology Letters  2011;7(5):661-663.
Facultative, partially migratory animals provide a contemporary window into the evolution of migration, offering rare opportunities to examine the life-history trade-offs associated with migration. For the first time, to our knowledge, we describe the nature of these trade-offs, using a lek-breeding tropical bird, the white-ruffed manakin (Corapipo altera). Previous evidence indicated that weather drives post-breeding migration to lower elevations bringing condition-related benefits. Using elevation-sensitive stable isotope measurements and more than 1200 h of behavioural observations, we show that male manakins which migrate incur costs of diminished social status and matings with females the following breeding season. Because migratory tendency depends on inter-annual variation in weather, physical costs of displays and breeding prospects the following year, migratory decisions are subject to both natural and sexual selection, with the outcome of such decisions linked to changing climatic regimes.
PMCID: PMC3169044  PMID: 21471048
carry-over effects; evolution of migration; life-history trade-offs
3.  Monarch butterflies cross the Appalachians from the west to recolonize the east coast of North America 
Biology Letters  2010;7(1):43-46.
Each spring, millions of monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus) migrate from overwintering sites in Mexico to recolonize eastern North America. However, few monarchs are found along the east coast of the USA until mid-summer. Brower (Brower, L. P. 1996 J. Exp. Biol. 199, 93–103.) proposed that east coast recolonization is accomplished by individuals migrating from the west over the Appalachians, but to date no evidence exists to support this hypothesis. We used hydrogen (δD) and carbon (δ13C) stable isotope measurements to estimate natal origins of 90 monarchs sampled from 17 sites along the eastern United States coast. We found the majority of monarchs (88%) originated in the mid-west and Great Lakes regions, providing, to our knowledge, the first direct evidence that second generation monarchs born in June complete a (trans-) longitudinal migration across the Appalachian mountains. The remaining individuals (12%) originated from parents that migrated directly from the Gulf coast during early spring. Our results provide evidence of a west to east longitudinal migration and provide additional rationale for conserving east coast populations by identifying breeding sources.
PMCID: PMC3030879  PMID: 20630891
Danaus plexippus; insect migration; migratory connectivity; stable isotopes
4.  Predicting conditions for migration: effects of density dependence and habitat quality 
Biology Letters  2007;3(3):280-284.
Migration is widespread among animals, but the factors that influence the decision to migrate are poorly understood. Within a single species, populations may be completely migratory, completely sedentary or partially migratory. We use a population model to derive conditions for migration and demonstrate how migratory survival, habitat quality and density dependence on both the breeding and non-breeding grounds influence conditions for migration and the proportion of migrants within a population. Density dependence during the season in which migratory and sedentary individuals use separate sites is necessary for partial migration. High levels of density dependence at the non-shared sites widen the range of survival values within which we predict partial migration, whereas increasing the strength of density dependence at the shared sites narrows the range of survival values within which we predict partial migration. Our results have important implications for predicting how contemporary populations with variable migration strategies may respond to changes in the quality or quantity of habitat.
PMCID: PMC2464694  PMID: 17374588
partial migration; habitat loss; population dynamics
5.  Predicting the consequences of carry-over effects for migratory populations 
Biology Letters  2005;2(1):148-151.
Migratory animals present a unique challenge for predicting population size because they are influenced by events in multiple stages of the annual cycle that are separated by large geographic distances. Here, we develop a model that incorporates non-fatal carry-over effects to predict changes in population size and show how this can be integrated with predictive models of habitat loss and deterioration. Examples from Barn swallows, Greater snow geese and American redstarts show how carry-over effects can be estimated and integrated into the model. Incorporation of carry-over effects should increase the predictive power of models. However, the challenge for developing accurate predictions rests both on the ability to estimate parameters from multiple stages of the annual cycle and to understand how events between these periods interact to influence individual success.
PMCID: PMC1617207  PMID: 17148350
migratory animals; habitat loss; habitat quality; seasonal interactions; regulatory mechanisms

Results 1-5 (5)