Tracking movements of prairie warblers during the non-breeding season
Prairie warblers (Setophaga discolor) are a species of greatest conservation need that breed in globally-rare inland pitch pine-scrub oak barrens and other shrub-scrub vegetation types. Although we understand much about their ecology during the breeding season, we know little about their ecology during the non-breeding season (e.g., timing and location of their migratory pathways and the locations of their overwinter grounds). To address this lack of information, scientists at the Albany Pine Bush Preserve Commission, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, and the U.S. Forest Service Northern Research Station attached light-level geolocators to prairie warblers breeding in the Albany Pine Bush Preserve in NY and the Montague Plains Wildlife Management Area in MA. Light-level geolocators are archival data loggers that continuously measure and store light levels at the bird’s position. We retrieved the geolocators from birds that returned the following year and used these light-level data to determine times of sunrise, sunset, and solar noon which can then be used to calculate the bird’s latitude and longitude each day during its annual cycle.