Do you hear that? It’s the Wood thrush singing a cheerful song for you! That’s because it’s really grateful for all the work you did to protect it this year. You and all the other Earth Rangers who campaigned for the Wood thrush did a spectacular job protecting this small songbird.
Wood Thrush Warriors
From September 2012 to August 2013, almost 10,000 kids signed up to protect the Wood thrush. You campaigned, made bird houses and some of you, like Super Ranger Vanessa, even sacrificed some of your vacation fund to make sure this little songbird has a place to live. Thanks to you, the Wood thrush can sing a little louder in the forests of Quebec and Ontario.
Did We Meet Our Goals?
As part of this year’s Bring Back the Wild project for the Wood thrush, we set out to:
- Work with the Nature Conservancy of Canada by purchasing 25 acres of mature deciduous forest to expand the Tremblant-Prevost Natural Area in Quebec
- Purchase 60 geolocators to study Wood thrush migration between Ontario and their wintering grounds in partnership with Professor Bridget Stutchbury at York University and her Ph.D student, Emily McKinnon
In this final project update we are thrilled to share that we achieved 100% of both of these goals. We couldn’t have done it without your support! Let’s hear first hand from Emily, Wood thrush researcher, who has some exciting news about how your donations helped her learn more about Wood thrush migration and the important stopover habitats that these amazing little birds use.
Your Donations in Action
Hi, it’s Emily! You might remember hearing about my last trip to Belize in a Wild Wire article published last November. Well this past winter I got to experience the jungle life in Belize once again. I was on the lookout for Wood thrush, hoping to find some who had returned to their wintering grounds wearing the geolocator backpacks from the year before. I wasn’t disappointed!
After lots of hard work and some luck, we managed to capture 137 Wood thrush between January and early April, and 17 of them were wearing geolocators from last winter! We cut off the old backpacks and put them away for safe keeping to look at upon my return to Ontario. We also put new geolocator back packs on an additional 86 birds, which I will keep an eye out for when I head back to Belize again in December 2013.
While we were there, we also collected lots of data on the quality of the Wood thrush’s habitat by looking for insects and spiders, fruit, and measuring soil moisture. I have been analysing these data this summer to figure out which Wood thrush were in which area, what each area was like, and to find out how that affected their migration.
When I returned to Ontario, it was time to start looking at the geolocator data. After lots of analysis, I mapped out each of the Wood thrush’s migration routes. Check out three of the most interesting trips:
Solana’s journey was a great example of typical Wood thrush migration. In the spring of 2012 she rocketed north from Belize to her breeding site in Virginia (about 3,800 km) in only 11 days (red line on map)! In the fall of 2012, after she was done breeding, she took a little more time, but still travelled very fast, arriving back in Belize in 14 days (blue line on map). It still amazes me that these birds can fly clear across the Gulf of Mexico!
When we caught Will this past winter, he had a geolocator back pack from two years ago, with two years’ worth of data! This was exciting because when we first put the geolocator on Will he was a juvenile, making his first migratory journey and when we caught him again, he was an adult. His tracking data shows us how his directions have improved. In 2011, he got a little ‘lost’ on his first spring migration northward (red squiggly line on map), arriving at his breeding site quite late on May 12. On his second spring migration in 2012 (purple line on map), he found his bearings and arrived on April 28! Males who are early to arrive at their breeding grounds usually get the best territories, so he really improved his chances of breeding successfully in his second year! Will’s map also shows that he used the Caribbean Islands as a stopover site during his migration south to Belize in fall 2011 (turquoise line on map).
Another bird I was really excited to capture was Carolina, an adult female that I first captured on October 28, 2010. She seems to really like our nets, since we have captured her five times since my study began. She has carried a radio-tag, then a geolocator for two years in a row (2011 and 2012), so now she is officially ‘retired’ from backpack-wearing! She breeds in the very far south of the Wood thrush range, an area that is experiencing steep population declines. Even though she is no longer wearing a geolocator, I hope she comes back to Belize next year, and for many more years!
This project has been so important for Wood thrush conservation. Together we discovered amazing things about migration behaviour of songbirds, including how fast they can migrate between their wintering and breeding grounds, the routes they follow, and how individual migration paths can change but the timing stays the same (Stanley et al. 2012). Earth Rangers across Canada should take great pride in being part of this first-ever conservation project. The new information we have learned about Wood thrush migration will be used to help make important conservation plans to better protect Wood thrush habitat and help these birds adapt to their changing world.