Residency Times and Patterns of Movement of Postbreeding Dunlin on a Subarctic Staging Area in Alaska
Understanding how individuals use key resources is critical for effective conservation of a population. The Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta (YKD) in western Alaska is the most important postbreeding staging area for shorebirds in the subarctic North Pacific, yet little is known about movements of shorebirds there during the postbreeding period. To address this information gap, we studied residency times and patterns of movement of 17 adult and 17 juvenile radio-marked Dunlin (Calidris alpina) on the YKD between early August and early October 2005. Throughout this postbreeding period, during which Dunlin were molting, most birds were relocated within a 130 km radius of their capture site on the YKD, but three birds were relocated more than 600 km to the south at estuaries along the Alaska Peninsula. On average, juvenile Dunlin were relocated farther away from the banding site (median relocation distance = 36.3 km) than adult Dunlin (median relocation distance = 8.8 km). Post-capture, minimum lengths of stay by Dunlin on the YKD were not significantly different between juveniles (median = 19 days) and adults (median = 23 days), with some birds staging for more than 50 days. Body mass at time of capture was the best single variable explaining length of stay on the YKD, with average length of stay decreasing by 2.5 days per additional gram of body mass at time of capture. Conservation efforts for postbreeding shorebirds should consider patterns of resource use that may differ not only by age cohort but also by individual condition.