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Bobolink Wintering Ecologybobo

Underlying an effective conservation strategy for any species is a comprehensive understanding of how its populations are regulated via reproduction and survival. Research has traditionally focused on reproduction, but factors throughout the life cycle of migrant passerines can limit populations (Holmes 2007). For long-distance migrant bird species, events during winter and migration may contribute to negative population trends by reducing survival or productivity (Hewson and Noble 2009). Climatic and habitat conditions in winter and during migration can affect physical preparedness for migration, spring arrival, and reproductive success (Sillett et al. 2000, Nott et al. 2002, Newton 2006).

Such seasonal dependencies underscore the importance of 1) advancing our understanding of the limitations migrants face during the non-breeding season (Donovan et al. 2002), and 2) identifying “migratory connectivity” – the interrelationship between events during the breeding, migratory, and wintering seasons (e.g. Studds and Marra 2005). A thorough understanding of migratory connectivity is essential to effective conservation, particularly for species with declining trends (Carlisle et al. 2009).

Bobolink (Dolichonyx oryzivorus) populations have suffered dramatic declines throughout North America during the last four decades (Sauer et al. 2007). These trends are undoubtedly due in part to changes in land use on the breeding grounds, but we do not know how factors during the rest of the life cycle may be limiting Bobolink populations.

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