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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 729:1-29 (2024)  -  DOI:

From land to sea: the fall migration of the red phalarope through the Western Hemisphere

Sarah T. Saalfeld1,*, Mihai Valcu2, Stephen Brown3, Willow English4, Marie-Andrée Giroux5, Autumn-Lynn Harrison6, Johannes Krietsch2, Kathy Kuletz1, Jean-François Lamarre7, Christopher Latty8, Nicolas Lecomte9, Rebecca McGuire10, Martin Robards10, Amy Scarpignato6, Shiloh Schulte3, Paul A. Smith11, Bart Kempenaers2, Richard B. Lanctot1

1Migratory Bird Management Division, US Fish and Wildlife Service, Anchorage, Alaska 99503, USA
2Department of Ornithology, Max Planck Institute for Biological Intelligence, 82319 Seewiesen, Germany
3Manomet Inc., Manomet, Massachusetts 02345, USA
4Department of Biology, Carleton University, Ottawa, Ontario K1S 5B6, Canada
5K.-C.-Irving Research Chair in Environmental Sciences and Sustainable Development, Département de Chimie et de Biochimie, Université de Moncton, Moncton, New Brunswick E1A 3E9, Canada
6Migratory Bird Center, Smithsonian’s National Zoo & Conservation Biology Institute, Washington, DC 20008, USA
7Canadian High Arctic Research Station (CHARS), Polar Knowledge Canada, Cambridge Bay, Nunavut X0B 0C0, Canada
8Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, US Fish and Wildlife Service, Fairbanks, Alaska 99701, USA
9Canada Research Chair in Polar and Boreal Ecology and Centre d’Études Nordiques, Department of Biology, Université de Moncton, Moncton, New Brunswick E1A 3E9, Canada
10Arctic Beringia Program, Wildlife Conservation Society, Fairbanks, Alaska 99709, USA
11Wildlife Research Division, Environment and Climate Change Canada, National Wildlife Research Centre, Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0H3, Canada
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Understanding how and where individuals migrate between breeding and wintering areas is important for assessing threats, identifying important areas for conservation, and determining a species’ vulnerability to changing environmental conditions. Between 2017 and 2020, we tracked post-breeding movements of 72 red phalaropes Phalaropus fulicarius with satellite tags from 7 Arctic-breeding sites in the Alaskan and Central Canadian Arctic. All tracked red phalaropes left their Arctic breeding grounds (i.e. were obligate migrants) but then switched to a more facultative migration strategy with a fly-and-forage migration pattern once in the marine environment. We documented high variability in migration timing and routes, with birds often taking indirect, circuitous routes with numerous stops that greatly lengthened both the duration and distance of their southward migration. Across nearly 500 stopover areas, which were often associated with areas of presumed greater food availability, individuals spent an average of 6 d and traveled within an average area of 1880 km2. Stopover areas were concentrated in onshore and nearshore habitats of the Beaufort and Chukchi seas, the western edge of the Bering Strait, along the Alaska Peninsula and Aleutian Islands, and near the Pribilof Islands in Alaska. Within the Beaufort and Chukchi seas, females frequently stopped within the marginal ice zone, whereas males tended to stay on land or in open water. Our results identified important marine areas that can aid future conservation and management decisions. However, conservation of the species will also need to address the numerous direct and indirect anthropogenic threats red phalaropes experience at sea, many of which are not site-specific.

KEY WORDS: Phalaropus fulicarius · Animal tracking · Beringia · Bering Sea · Chukchi Sea · PTT tags · Shorebirds · Seabirds

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Cite this article as: Saalfeld ST, Valcu M, Brown S, English W and others (2024) From land to sea: the fall migration of the red phalarope through the Western Hemisphere. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 729:1-29.

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