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Whimbrel Tracking in the Americas

A project of The Center for Conservation Biology in conjunction with the partners and sponsors detailed below.

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NameSpeciesLife StageRelease DateLast LocationDays Transmitted
Cobb WhimbrelAdult2011-05-172011-07-1559
Pingo WhimbrelAdult2012-06-122014-05-10697
Akpik WhimbrelAdult2012-06-212013-08-24429
Taglu WhimbrelAdult2012-06-302013-11-10498
Postel WhimbrelAdult2012-05-062014-12-18956
Gould WhimbrelAdult2012-05-052012-07-1571
Ossabaw WhimbrelAdult2013-05-222014-09-14480
Wolf WhimbrelAdult2013-05-262014-10-02494
Aolayaatok WhimbrelAdult2013-06-242014-08-28430
Banks WhimbrelAdult2013-06-232014-05-19330
Southampton WhimbrelAdult2013-06-202014-11-24522
Cabretta WhimbrelAdult2013-05-132013-09-13123
Mackay WhimbrelAdult2013-05-132014-04-28350
Akuni WhimbrelAdult2014-06-132014-09-25104
Vicky WhimbrelAdult2014-06-162014-08-2974
Kimialuk WhimbrelAdult2014-06-162014-09-2197
Arvoknar WhimbrelAdult2014-06-162014-10-08114
Upinraaq WhimbrelAdult2014-06-172014-11-04140
Taimunga WhimbrelAdult2014-06-172014-12-17183
Willy WhimbrelAdult2008-08-142008-11-1795
Miller WhimbrelAdult2010-05-192010-10-13147
Ramsey WhimbrelAdult2010-05-192010-08-1487
Mackenzie WhimbrelAdult2012-06-112013-08-19434
Machi WhimbrelAdult2009-08-202011-09-13754
Winnie WhimbrelAdult2008-05-202008-08-30102
Chinquapin WhimbrelAdult2010-05-222012-03-24672
Ann WhimbrelAdult2010-05-192010-07-2264
Boxer WhimbrelAdult2009-05-182009-07-2669
Pongo WhimbrelAdult2009-08-202010-02-01165
Fowler WhimbrelAdult2009-05-192009-06-0719
Elki WhimbrelAdult2009-05-212009-06-2838
Hope WhimbrelAdult2009-05-192012-12-051296
Indi WhimbrelAdult2009-05-222009-07-2564
Webb WhimbrelAdult2009-08-242010-05-27276
Kitt WhimbrelAdult2009-09-052010-02-27175
Goshen WhimbrelAdult2010-08-142011-09-13395

Click on an animal's name for maps and more information.

Introduction

The whimbrel is a large, holarctic, highly migratory shorebird. The North American race includes two disjunct breeding populations both of which winter primarily in Central and South America. The western population breeds in Alaska and the Northwest Territories of Canada. The eastern population breeds south and west of Hudson Bay in Manitoba and Ontario. It has generally been believed that the western population follows a Pacific Coast migration route between breeding and wintering areas and that the Hudson Bay population follows an Atlantic Coast route. Both populations are of high conservation concern due to dramatic declines in recent decades.

For more than a decade, scientists have believed that the seaside of the lower Delmarva Peninsula in Virginia played a significant role in the life cycle of the whimbrel. During spring migration in the mid-1990s, Bryan Watts from the Center for Conservation Biology at the College of William and Mary and Barry Truitt of The Nature Conservancy documented the densest concentration of whimbrels ever recorded in the western hemisphere within the barrier island lagoon system of the lower Delmarva Peninsula. Since that time, it has been believed that the Eastern Shore of Virginia represents a critical, coastal staging area where birds feed on the staggering numbers of fiddler crabs that inhabit the lagoon system and build up energy reserves before making their last overland flight to the breeding grounds. However, it has always been assumed that the birds staging along the lower Delmarva were exclusively from the Hudson Bay population. The flight documented in spring 2008 (see Winnie's map) has forced a change in thinking regarding the origin of birds using this stopover site.

Beginning in 2008, the Center for Conservation Biology collaborated with The Nature Conservancy to investigate the stopover ecology of whimbrels along the Delmarva Peninsula. The study includes aerial surveys to estimate seasonal numbers, traditional transmitters to examine stopover periods, and satellite transmitters to document migration pathways and breeding destinations for birds leaving the site. The seaside of the Delmarva Peninsula has been recognized as a globally important bird area, a hemispheric shorebird reserve, and a UNESCO biosphere reserve. The discovery that whimbrels use the site as a terminal staging area before embarking on a transcontinental flight suggests that the site is uniquely suited to provide the tremendous amount of energy required to prepare birds for such a flight.

Continued research planned by CCB and TNC in Virginia will investigate whimbrel stopover ecology and the broader strategic importance of this site to whimbrel populations.

In 2010, Georgia Department of Natural Resources began tracking Whimbrel from another important migration stopover on the east coast of North America. Georgia's barrier island and salt-marsh complex provide excellent stopover habitat for refueling on their migration from their wintering grounds in South America to the breeding grounds in the Arctic.

Names for the Vriginia Whimbrels are landmarks near where the Whimbrel congregate on the Eastern Shore of Virginia (Hope Creek, Box Tree, Fowling Point, Elkins Marsh, Hope Creek, Indian Creek, town of Machipongo, Webb Island, Ramshorn Channel, Mill Creek, and Kitt Creek).

Project Partners

Funding, staff, and additional resources for this project were provided by the following partners: The Nature Conservancy (Virginia and Georgia Chapters), Georgia Department of Natural Resources, US Fish and Wildlife Service, Canadian Wildlife Service, Manomet Center for Conservation Studies, and the Center for Conservation Biology.