Skip to Main Content
U.S. Forest Service
Caring for the land and serving people

United States Department of Agriculture

Home > Search > Publication Information

  1. Share via EmailShare on FacebookShare on LinkedInShare on Twitter
    Dislike this pubLike this pub
    Author(s): Jeffrey F. Kelly; Viorel Atudorei; Zachary D. Sharp; Deborah M. Finch
    Date: 2002
    Source: Oecologia. 130(2): 216-221.
    Publication Series: Miscellaneous Publication
    PDF: Download Publication  (95 B)


    Our ability to link the breeding locations of individual passerines to migration stopover sites and wintering locations is limited. Stable isotopes of hydrogen contained in bird feathers have recently shown potential in this regard. We measured hydrogen stable-isotope ratios (deltaD) of feathers from breeding, migrating, and wintering Wilson's Warblers. Analyses of feathers from museum specimens collected throughout the western portion of the breeding range indicate that deltaD values are significantly negatively related to latitude of collection (R2=0.52), which is an indication that deltaD values are a good descriptor of breeding latitude. Analyses of feathers collected from birds migrating through the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, New Mexico (USA), revealed a significantly positive relationship between deltaD values and the timing of autumn migration (R2=0.34), but not the timing of spring migration. This pattern indicates that Wilson's Warblers that bred furthest north migrated earliest in the autumn. Finally, analysis of feathers collected on the wintering grounds indicate that the hydrogen isotope ratio is significantly positively related to wintering latitude (R2=0.80), which indicates that birds that bred furthest north wintered furthest south. In combination, these patterns suggest that in the western portion of their range, Wilson's Warblers have a leapfrog migration system in which the northern-most breeding birds pass through New Mexico early in the autumn to arrive on the wintering grounds in southern Central America, the southern edge of the Wilson's Warblers winter range. We know of no other literature documenting or suggesting that Wilson's Warbler engage in leapfrog migration. We think the novelty of these results is a reflection of the potential for stable-isotope techniques to revise our understanding of bird migration.

    Publication Notes

    • You may send email to to request a hard copy of this publication.
    • (Please specify exactly which publication you are requesting and your mailing address.)
    • We recommend that you also print this page and attach it to the printout of the article, to retain the full citation information.
    • This article was written and prepared by U.S. Government employees on official time, and is therefore in the public domain.


    Kelly, Jeffrey F.; Atudorei, Viorel; Sharp, Zachary D.; Finch, Deborah M. 2002. Insights into Wilson''s Warbler migration from analyses of hydrogen stable-isotope ratios. Oecologia. 130(2): 216-221.


    leapfrog migration, hydrogen-isotope ratio, Wilsonia pusilla, Wilson's Warbler, stopover biology

    Related Search

    XML: View XML
Show More
Show Fewer
Jump to Top of Page