Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Units Program: Vermont
Education, Research and Technical Assistance for Managing Our Natural Resources

Bonter, D. N., T. M. Donovan, and E. W. Brooks. 2007. Daily changes in energetic condition in landbirds during migration stopover on the south shore of Lake Ontario. Auk 124:122-133


Assigning conservation priorities to areas used by birds during migration requires information on the relative quality of areas and habitats. The rate at which migratory birds replenish energy reserves during stopover may be used as an indicator of stopover-site quality. We estimated the rate of mass gain of 34 landbird species during stopover at a near-shore terrestrial site on the south shore of Lake Ontario in New York during 12 migration seasons from 1999 to 2004. The average rate of mass gain was estimated by relating a measure of condition to time of capture (hour after sunrise) with linear regression. Data from 25,385 captures were analyzed. Significantly positive rates of mass change were detected for 20 of 30 species during spring migration and 19 of 21 species during autumn migration. No significantly negative trends were detected in either season. Daily rates of mass gain across all species averaged 9.84% of average lean body weight during spring migration and 9.77% during autumn migration. Our regression estimates were significantly greater than estimates from traditional analyses that examine mass changes in recaptured birds. Analyses of mass changes in recaptured birds revealed a mean daily change of -0.68% of average lean mass in spring and 0.13% in autumn. Because of sampling biases inherent in recapture analyses, the regression approach is likely more accurate when the assumptions of the method are met. Similar studies in various habitats, landscapes, and regions are required to prioritize conservation efforts targeting migratory stages of the annual cycle.