Migration timing and routes, and wintering areas of Flammulated Owls
Determining patterns in annual movements of animals is an important component of population ecology, particularly for migratory birds where migration timing and routes, and wintering habitats have key bearing on population dynamics. From 2009 to 2011, we used light-level geolocators to document the migratory movements of Flammulated Owls (Psiloscops flammeolus). Four males departed from breeding areas in Colorado for fall migration between ≤5 and 21 October, arrived in wintering areas in Mexico between 11 October and 3 November, departed from wintering areas from ≤6 to 21 April, and returned to Colorado between 15 and 21 May. Core wintering areas for three males were located in the Trans-Mexican Volcanic Belt Mountains in the states of Jalisco, Michoacán, and Puebla in central and east-central Mexico, and the core area for the other male was in the Sierra Madre Oriental Mountains in Tamaulipas. The mean distance from breeding to wintering centroids was 2057 ± 128 km (SE). During fall migration, two males took a southeastern path to eastern Mexico, and two males took a path due south to central Mexico. In contrast, during spring migration, all four males traveled north from Mexico along the Sierra Madre Oriental Mountains to the Rio Grande Valley and north through New Mexico. The first stopovers in fall and last stopovers in spring were the longest in duration for all males and located 300–400 km from breeding areas. Final spring stopovers may have allowed male Flammulated Owls to fine tune the timing of their return to high-elevation breeding areas where late snows are not uncommon. One male tracked in both years had similar migration routes, timing, and wintering areas each year. Core wintering and final stopover areas were located primarily in coniferous forests and woodlands, particularly pine-oak forests, suggesting that these are important habitats for Flammulated Owls throughout their annual cycle.
Authors: Linkhart, Brian D., Fox, James W., Yanco, Scott W.