Date of Award

Summer 8-12-2016

Level of Access

Open-Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Biological Sciences

Advisor

Brian McGill

Second Committee Member

Brian J. Olsen

Third Committee Member

Joseph D. Zydlewski

Additional Committee Members

Erik J. Blomberg

Sara Morris

Abstract

In and around the Gulf of Maine, over 300 species of birds have been documented during migration, and tens of millions of songbirds may pass through the region on a single autumn night. Shorelines are widely documented as major migration corridors. There is ample evidence that coastal areas concentrate migrants and many species make overwater movements to and from breeding and wintering grounds. Data collected from radar, banding, and ceilometry studies in the northeast have provided us with evidence that birds migrate along the coast and make overwater movements across the Gulf of Maine and Bay of Fundy during both spring and fall. However, all of these studies were conducted at the far northern and southern regions of the Gulf and there is still little detailed information about bird migration within the Gulf itself.

With more than 85% of the annual mortality for many songbirds occurring on migration (Sillett and Holmes 2002), improving our understanding of migration throughout this region is imperative for making conservation based management decisions. This is especially pertinent in the Gulf of Maine where climate and anthropogenic changes to the landscape continue to increase challenges facing migrants. Given the concentration of individuals in this region, local scale impacts on individuals could have population level consequences.

My project contributes to improving our understanding of migration by identifying key stopover areas throughout the region, presenting a baseline description of species abundance and diversity distributions, and identifying origins and factors explaining patterns of occurrence for select species in the Gulf. Additionally, I characterize physiological condition of migrants across multiple sites to identify stopover site conservation priorities in the region. I also use physiological condition at a local scale to identify possible constraints on migrants’ ability to adapt to a changing Gulf of Maine.

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