Moore, J.D., D.E. Andersen, T. Cooper, J.P. Duguay, S.L. Oldenburger, C.A. Stewart, and D.G. Krementz. 2019. Migratory connectivity of American woodcock derived using satellite telemetry. Journal of Wildlife Management 83:1617–1627. DOI:10.1002/jwmg.21741.
As with many migratory birds, migratory connectivity of American woodcock (Scolopax minor; hereafter, woodcock) is largely unknown. Understanding migratory connectivity and migration phenology is important in identifying factors that influence survival and fitness over the full annual cycle. However, until recently, practical methods (i.e., data derived from banding and VHF telemetry) for elucidating migratory connectivity and migration phenology of woodcock have provided relatively coarse-resolution delineation of migration patterns. Based largely on analysis of band returns, woodcock are managed in 2 management regions (Eastern and Central Management Regions) with management region boundaries analogous to those of the Atlantic and Mississippi Flyways. To better understand woodcock migration and evaluate the validity of current management regions, we deployed satellite transmitters on 73 woodcock in the Central Management Region, and from 2014-2016 documented migration paths of 60 individual woodcock and 87 autumn or spring woodcock migrations. Marked woodcock captured in the Central Management Region used 2 primary migrations routes: a Western Route and a Central Route. The Western Route ran north-south, connecting the breeding and wintering grounds within the Central Management Region. The hourglass-shaped Central Route connected an area on the wintering grounds reaching from Texas to Florida, to sites throughout northeastern North America in the Eastern Management Region and Central Management Region. Woodcock following the Central Route migrated through the area between the Appalachian Mountains and the Mississippi Alluvial Valley in western Tennessee during both autumn and spring. A higher than anticipated (based on previous banding data analyses) percentage (36%, n = 12) of marked woodcock captured in Texas and Louisiana and monitored during spring migration migrated to breeding-period sites in the Eastern Management Region, raising questions about the biological relevance of managing woodcock in separate management regions.