Songbirds are resilient to hurricane disturbed habitats during spring migration

Journal of Avian Biology
By: , and 

Links

Abstract

The Gulf of Mexico is a conspicuous feature of the Neotropical–Nearctic bird migration system. Traveling long distances across ecological barriers comes with considerable risks, and mortality associated with intercontinental migration may be substantial, including that caused by storms or other adverse weather events. However, little, if anything, is known about how migratory birds respond to disturbance-induced changes in stopover habitat. Isolated, forested cheniere habitat along the northern coast of the Gulf of Mexico often concentrate migrants, during weather conditions unfavorable for northward movement or when birds are energetically stressed. We expected hurricane induced degradation of this habitat to negatively affect the abundance, propensity to stopover, and fueling trends of songbirds that stopover in coastal habitat. We used spring banding data collected in coastal Louisiana to compare migrant abundance and fueling trends before (1993–1996 and 1998–2005) and after hurricanes Rita (2006) and Ike (2009). We also characterized changes in vegetative structure before (1995) and after (2010) the hurricanes. The hurricanes caused dramatic changes to the vegetative structure, which likely decreased resources. Surprisingly, abundance, propensity to stopover, and fueling trends of most migrant species were not influenced by hurricane disturbance. Our results suggest that: 1) the function of chenieres as a refuge for migrants after completing a trans-Gulf flight may not have changed despite significant changes to habitat and decreases in resource availability, and 2) that most migrants may be able to cope with habitat disturbance during stopover. The fact that migrants use disturbed habitat points to their conservation value along the northern coast of the Gulf of Mexico.

Study Area

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Songbirds are resilient to hurricane disturbed habitats during spring migration
Series title Journal of Avian Biology
DOI 10.1111/jav.01215
Volume 48
Issue 6
Year Published 2017
Language English
Publisher Wiley
Contributing office(s) Wetland and Aquatic Research Center
Description 12 p.
First page 815
Last page 826
Country United States
State Louisiana