Habitat loss on the breeding grounds is a major contributor to population declines in a long-distance migratory songbird
Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Connecticut warbler, conservation, fragmentation, migration, migratory connectivity, remote sensing
Many migratory species are declining and for most, the proximate causes of their declines remain unknown. For many long-distance Neotropical migratory songbirds, it is assumed that habitat loss on breeding or non-breeding grounds is a primary driver of population declines. We integrated data collected from tracking technology, community science and remote sensing data to quantify migratory connectivity (MC), population trends and habitat loss. We quantified the correlation between forest change throughout the annual cycle and population declines of a long-distance migratory songbird, the Connecticut warbler (Oporornis agilis, observed decline: -8.99% yr -1). MC, the geographic link between populations during two or more phases of the annual cycle, was stronger between breeding and autumn migration routes (MC = 0.24 ± 0.23) than between breeding and non-breeding locations (MC = -0.2 ± 0.14). Different Connecticut warbler populations tended to have population-specific fall migration routes but overlapped almost completely within the northern Gran Chaco ecoregion in South America. Cumulative forest loss within 50 km of breeding locations and the resulting decline in the largest forested patch index was correlated more strongly with population declines than forest loss on migratory stopover regions or on wintering locations in South America, suggesting that habitat loss during the breeding season is a driver of observed population declines for the Connecticut warbler. Land-use practices that retain large, forested patches within landscapes will likely benefit breeding populations of this declining songbird, but further research is needed to help inform land-use practices across the full annual cycle to minimize the impacts to migratory songbirds and abate ongoing population declines.
Hallworth, Michael T.; Bayne, Erin; McKinnon, Emily; Love, Oliver; Tremblay, Junior A.; Drolet, Bruno; Ibarzabal, Jacques; Van Wilgenburg, Steven; and Marra, Peter P.. (2021). Habitat loss on the breeding grounds is a major contributor to population declines in a long-distance migratory songbird. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 288 (1949).