South Atlantic Bight – a final stop for Ruddy Turnstones migrating to the Arctic

Ruddy Turnstones. Image credit: Maina Handmaker


Migratory stopover sites are of high conservation concern especially those sites where shorebirds concentrate in large numbers to acquire fat reserves to fuel continued flight to breeding grounds. Many shorebirds use only a few stopover sites during northward migration to Arctic breeding grounds, thus identifying important locations, migration chronology, and flight routes are priority research topics to inform effective management strategies. We examined Ruddy Turnstones (Arenaria interpres) route and timing to Arctic breeding grounds from an island in South Carolina in the heart of the South Atlantic Bight using the Motus Wildlife Tracking System. Ruddy Turnstones leaving South Carolina did not migrate northward up the Atlantic coast but migrated inland through the Great Lakes Basin. Most Ruddy Turnstones did not make a stop in the Great Lakes Basin, thus making South Carolina the last presumed stopover before reaching Arctic habitats. Like other shorebird migration studies, most of the Ruddy Turnstones made use of tailwinds at departure and ground speeds were positively correlated with tailwind support. Future conservation planning for Ruddy Turnstones must consider the varied migratory routes and strategies of this declining shorebird species. This research also demonstrates the usefulness of Motus for tracking the movement of smaller shorebirds and the potential for strategic expansion of the Motus network to understand their full life cycle.

In Journal of Field Ornithology
Maina Handmaker
Maina Handmaker
PhD Candidate

I am a graduate student in the Senner Lab at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. My current research is focused on the stopover ecology of long-distance migratory shorebirds.