Prothonotary Warbler by Michelle Davis

Cibola National Wildlife Refuge, Arizona



The study site (33 18’ N 114 41’ W) is located in the Sonoran Desert of southwestern Arizona at Cibola National Wildlife Refuge (NWR). Cibola NWR is situated within the floodplain of the lower Colorado River, and is composed of narrow bands of riparian vegetation adjacent to the river corridor and is surrounded by desert ridges and washes. Within this desert ecosystem riparian habitats support the largest abundance and diversity of bird species and provide critical stopover sites for migratory birds. 

The study site was re-vegetated in 1978 with native riparian tree species, including Fremont cottonwood (Populus fremontii), Goodding’s willow (Salix gooddingii), honey mesquite (Prosopis glandulosa), screwbean mesquite (P. pubescens), palo verde (Cercidium floridum), and nonnative eucalyptus (Eucalyptus spp.). Common understory species included seep willow (Baccharis salicifolia), arrow weed (Tessaria sevicea), and saltbush (Atriplex spp.). Vegetation surrounding the 6.5 ha re-vegetation site is composed primarily of nonnative riparian vegetation (tamarisk [Tamarix spp.]), small mosaics of native and nonnative riparian vegetation and agricultural fields.  


BANDING COMPONENT – The Migratory Bird Research Group has been banding at this site since 2008, and Kristina Paxton has conducted research at the site since 2003. During spring migration (March – May), 15 mist-nets are operate daily at the site, capturing about 1,600 birds per season and 60 different bird species.

Click here for a table of all birds banding at the Cibola NWR banding station in the spring of 2008.

MIGRATORY CONNECTIVITY – Kristina Paxton’s research focuses on identifying the breeding destination of Wilson’s Warblers (Wilsonia pusilla) captured at the migration banding station. Integration of information from stable isotopes, genetic markers, and plumage coloration allows us to geographically link individual Wilson’s warblers captured at the stopover site with their breeding area destinations. Thus, for each Wilson’s warbler captured, a tail feather is pulled for stable hydrogen isotope analysis, a blood sample via brachial vein is collected for genetic sample, and plumage coloration measures are taken with a colorimeter.

MIGRATION STRATEGIES – By identifying the breeding destination of Wilson’s warblers captured during migration we can assess (1) how far migrants must travel from the stopover site to their breeding area and (2) whether migrants are early or late relative to other birds traveling to the same breeding area. This allows us to examine how differences in the distance to a breeding area destination may affect migration stopover strategies such as stopover duration, fuel deposition rates, and foraging behavior.  





The University of Southern Mississippi. Last modified: 11 November, 2008 . Questions and Comments?