Nonbreeding isolation and population-specific migration patterns among three populations of Golden-winged Warblers

Gunnar R. Kramer, Henry M. Streby, Sean M. Peterson, Justin A. Lehman, David A. Buehler, Petra B. Wood, Darin J. McNeil, Jeffery L. Larkin, David E. Andersen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Scopus citations


Golden-winged Warblers (Vermivora chrysoptera) are Nearctic-Neotropical migrants experiencing varied regional population trends not fully explained by breeding-grounds factors such as nest success. A lack of detailed information on the nonbreeding distributions, migration routes, or timing of migration among populations hampers our ability to identify population processes outside the breeding period. We used geolocators to track annual movements of 21 Golden-winged Warblers from 3 North American breeding locations experiencing varying population trends to investigate the potential for nonbreeding site factors to influence breeding populations. We used the template-fit method to estimate locations of individual warblers throughout the year. Geolocator-marked warblers exhibited significant isolation among populations during migration and the nonbreeding period. During the nonbreeding period, Golden-winged Warblers from Minnesota, USA (n = 12) occurred in Central America from southern Mexico to central Nicaragua; warblers from Tennessee, USA (n = 7) occurred along the border of northern Colombia and Venezuela; and warblers from Pennsylvania, USA (n = 2) occurred in north-central Venezuela. Warblers travelled at slower rates over more days in fall migration than spring migration. Fall migration routes at the Gulf of Mexico were population-specific, whereas spring routes were more varied and overlapped among populations. Golden-winged Warblers from Pennsylvania migrated 4,000 and 5,000 km yr-1 farther than Tennessee and Minnesota warblers, respectively, and spent almost twice as long migrating in the fall compared to Minnesota warblers. Our results reveal nearly complete temporal and geographic isolation among 3 populations of Golden-winged Warblers throughout the annual cycle, resulting in opportunities for population- and site-specific factors to differentially influence populations outside the breeding period. Our findings highlight the need for monitoring multiple populations of migratory species to understand and better inform conservation strategies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)108-121
Number of pages14
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 1 2017

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 American Ornithological Society.


  • Geolocators
  • Isolation
  • Migration
  • Nonbreeding period
  • Template-fit method
  • Vermivora chrysoptera

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Animal Science and Zoology


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