Full life-cycle conservation

A wintering water hole in the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge can be a critical resource for non-breeding populations of migratory birds that need to be in good condition by the time they depart in Spring.

For a number of reasons, temperate-zone field ecology in the winter lags far behind the depth of knowledge we have about the Spring-Summer breeding season. Yet, for many species this represents a majority of their annual life-cycle and can be of critical conservation importance.

Our lab is addressing this scarcity of non-breeding information by gathering knowledge on the wintering and behavioral ecology of a declining suite of migratory birds that use Oklahoma’s diverse grassland habitat, the New-world longspurs (Calcariidae). We are examining fundamental questions on habitat use and movement. Yet we are also examining flock dynamics relative to weather severity; our hypothesis being that these may be periods of elevated risk for the birds and times when surveys may be much more affected by the detectability of flocks.

A male Chestnut-collared Longspur in the hand
A late-winter male Chestnut-collared Longspur captured at a winter roosting site in the grasslands of the Wichita Mountains NWR, Oklahoma [John Muller]

Follow the project here.

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