eWestern Birds

The Quarterly Journal of Western Field Ornithologists

Vol. 52, No. 4
November 2021
Western Field Ornithologists

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Age and Sex Influence Natal and Breeding Dispersal of Purple Martins
Carolyn A. Cook, Glen T. Hvenegaard,
Geoffrey L. Holroyd, Hardy Pletz, and Myrna Pearman

ABSTRACT: Dispersal patterns deepen our understanding of population dynamics. Dispersal by all age and sex classes enhances a species’ ability to respond to environmental changes, such as in habitat availability, artificial nest sites, and climate. The migration dynamics of the eastern subspecies of the Purple Martin (Progne subis subis) are well known, but we know less about its patterns of annual dispersal. We compared the frequency, distance, and direction of dispersal by each age/sex cohort of martins in central Alberta, at the northwestern limit of their breeding range. We used two datasets: (1) adult martins banded in central Alberta as nestlings and encountered during the summers of 2017 and 2018, and (2) records of encounters of banded martins in Canada from 1935 to 2016 from the Canadian Wildlife Service’s Bird Banding Office. In Alberta, 36% of birds dispersed from natal sites (by an average distance of 24 km), most commonly to the northeast. Across Canada, 29% of birds dispersed (by an average distance of 183 km), most commonly to the east and northeast. In Alberta, martins at least two years old dispersed less frequently than yearlings since some older martins returned to their natal site after first breeding elsewhere. Dispersal distances of after-second-year martins, which represent natal plus breeding dispersal, were greater than those of second-year birds, which represent natal dispersal alone. Thus some martins continue to disperse after their second year and do not maintain complete fidelity to a breeding site, which is different from our current understanding.

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