We combined radiotelemetry, plasma metabolite analyses, and macro-invertebrate prey sampling to investigate variation in putative fattening rates (estimated as plasma triglyceride levels) at the flyway scale in Western Sandpipers (Calidris mauri) migrating between Punta Banda, Mexico (31??N), and Hartney Bay, Alaska (60??N), a distance of 4,240 km. Birds were caught at a wintering site (San Francisco Bay) and eight stopover sites along this Pacific Flyway. Body mass was higher in females than in males at six sites, but variation was not correlated with latitude for either sex, and the relationship of change in mass by date within sites was uninformative with regard to possible latitudinal variation in fattening rates. At San Francisco Bay, triglyceride levels were higher in the spring than in the winter. Mean plasma triglyceride varied among stopover sites, and there was a significant linear trend of increasing triglyceride levels with latitude as birds migrated north. At San Francisco Bay, length of stay was negatively related to triglyceride levels. However, plasma triglyceride levels at wintering or initial stopover sites (San Francisco and Punta Banda) did not predict individual variation in subsequent rates of travel during migration. We found no significant relationship between triglyceride levels and prey biomass at different stopover sites, which suggests that the latitudinal pattern is not explained by latitudinal changes in food availability. Rather, we suggest that differences in physiology of migratory birds at southern versus northern stopover sites or behavioral differences may allow birds to sustain higher fattening rates closer to the breeding grounds. ?? The American Ornithologists' Union, 2007.
Additional publication details
Flyway-scale variation in plasma triglyceride levels as an index of refueling rate in spring-migrating western sandpipers (Calidris mauri)