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Health and Fitness Consequences of Using Non-Native Dominated Habitats During Migratory Stopover

In 2012, with funding from the USFWS Avian Health and Disease Program, we began a study on the health and physiology of landbird migrants in relation to habitat use during fall migration. Fruits are an important food source for landbirds during fall migration, including for those birds that are primarily insectivores at other times of their annual cycle. However, the nutrient content of fruits vary widely in lipid, protein, and carbohydrate content. For example, exotic species such as those within the Genus Lonicera (bush honeysuckles) are relatively low in lipid and protein content and high in carbohydrates whereas others (e.g., the natives Cornus spp., Lindera spp., and Viburnum spp.) have higher lipid content. Fruit is also an important source of dietary carotenoid, a known antioxidant important in health and condition of birds. Consequently, even as the nutritional quality of non-native fruit may be low for migrating landbirds, exotic fruits may be a primary source of carotenoids for migrating landbirds.

For two years, Yushi Oguchi, a master’s student in Department of Fisheries and Wildlife has been studying how birds are doing in two different habitat types at the Burke Lake Banding Station. The primary habitat of the station is dominated by native shrubs such as spicebush, common winterberry, America highbush cranberry, and common elderberry. Nearby is upland shrub habitat dominated by exotic shrubs, such as autumn olive, Japanese honeysuckle, European buckthorn, and multifloral rose. We had equal netting effort in both habitats for two years and investigated, in relation to habitat use, three migrant species’ (1) energetic condition, i.e. plasma metabolite profile and mass change,(2) movement and stopover length, and (3) immunological condition. The focal species for the project are: Swainson’s Thrush, Gray Catbird, and Magnolia Warbler. We also collect health and physiology data on the Black-capped Chickadee, a resident species at BULA.

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