College of Forest Resources and Environmental Science
Birds found outside their typical range, or vagrants, have fascinated naturalists for decades. Despite broad interest in vagrancy, few attempts have been made to statistically examine the explanatory variables potentially responsible for the phenomenon. In this study, we used multiple linear regression to model the occurrence of 28 rare warbler species (family Parulidae) in autumn in northern California and southern Oregon as a function of migration distance, continental population size, distance, and bearing to both closest breeding population and breeding population center. In addition to our predictive model, we used capture data from the California coast to 300 km inland to examine relationships between the presence of vagrant warblers, regional warbler species richness and age class distribution. Our study yielded three important results: (1) vagrancy is strongly correlated with larger North American population size; (2) vagrants are more common at some coastal sites; and (3) where young birds are over-represented, vagrants tend to occur-such as on the coast and at far inland sites. Of the many explanations of rare and vagrant individuals, we feel that the most likely is that these birds represent the ends of the distributions of a normal curve of migration direction, bringing some few migrants to locations out of their normal migratory range as vagrants. We also examine the underrepresented species that, according to our model, are overdue for being recorded in our study area.
Wolfe, J. D.
Factors affecting the distribution and abundance of autumn vagrant New World warblers in northwestern California and southern Oregon.
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