Using automated telemetry to identify population connectivity and migration phenology of Snowy Plovers breeding in the Southern Great Plains

Authors: Kristen M. Heath-Acre, Clint W. Boal, Daniel P. Collins, Warren C. Conway, and William P. Johnson

Year: 2022

Publication: Journal of Field Ornithology

Publication Link:

Keywords: annual cycle, conservation, Motus Wildlife Tracking System, movement ecology, saline lakes, shorebirds, wetlands

Abstract: Within-breeding season movements have not been quantified for Snowy Plovers (Charadrius
nivosus) breeding on the Southern Great Plains (SGP), where suitable breeding habitat can range from less
than 10 km to more than 600 km apart. This mosaic distribution of discrete patches of breeding habitat,
combined with weather stochasticity and low densities of Snowy Plovers in Texas and New Mexico, increases
the risk of local and regional extirpation. Further, little is known about SGP Snowy Plover migration
phenology or winter habitat. We used the Motus Wildlife Tracking System to examine population
connectivity, migration phenology, and winter habitat locations of adult Snowy Plovers in the SGP.
Movements of Snowy Plovers during the 2017 and 2018 breeding seasons suggest little to no connectivity
between the Salt Plains National Wildlife Refuge population in Oklahoma and populations in Texas and New
Mexico. However, several Snowy Plovers in Texas moved to a lake formed by freshwater springs that may
have provided higher-quality breeding and foraging habitat. Migrating primarily at night, we found that
Snowy Plovers from a breeding area in Oklahoma made migratory movements to Texas and the Louisiana
Gulf Coast. These data may be important to long-term conservation and planning efforts relative to
understanding regional persistence and connectivity among breeding populations of Snowy Plovers in the
SGP. Our results also highlight the need for future studies of wintering habitats used by SGP Snowy Plovers.

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