The Dunlin (Calidris alpina) is a polytypic shorebird with complex patterns of distribution and migration throughout its holarctic range. We analyzed mark-re sighting data obtained between 1977 and 2010 from birds captured at two major staging areas in western Alaska to test the hypothesis that the migration patterns of Alaskan populations are a mixture of parallel and chain, similar to those of Dunlin populations in the western Palearctic. Birds marked on the Yukon—Kuskokwim Delta were found wintering in both Asia and North America, which documented the unexpected mixing of C. a. arcticola from northern Alaska and C. a. pacifica from western Alaska and contradicted our initial prediction of parallel migration pathways for these two subspecies. In its North American winter range C. a. pacifica segregated according to location of marking, confirming our prediction of a chain migration pattern within this population. Individuals of C. a. pacifica marked on the delta were resighted significantly farther north, mostly in southern British Columbia and Washington, than birds marked on the second, more southerly staging area on the Alaska Peninsula, which were resighted primarily in the San Francisco Bay area of northern California. We recommend additional studies use a combination of intrinsic and extrinsic markers to quantify the strength of migratory connectivity between breeding, staging, and wintering areas. Such information is needed to guide conservation efforts because the Dunlin and other waterbirds are losing intertidal habitats at an unprecedented rate and scale, particularly in the Yellow Sea and other parts of Asia.
Additional publication details
Intercontinental migratory connectivity and population structuring of Dunlins from western Alaska