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Space and habitat use by breeding Golden-winged Warblers in the central Appalachian Mountains

January 1, 2017

Spot-mapping, or recording locations of observed use by territorial songbirds, is often used to delineate core breeding territories. However, a recent radiotelemetry study in Minnesota found that male Golden-winged Warblers (Vermivora chrysoptera) occurring in high-density populations used resources outside their spot-mapped territories. We compared differences in space use and quantified vegetation characteristics in territories and home ranges of individual male Golden-winged Warblers that we monitored using both spot-mapping and radiotelemetry. Our study sites in Pennsylvania and West Virginia had lower population density than in Minnesota. We recorded 524 telemetry locations among 12 male Golden-winged Warblers in Pennsylvania and 488 telemetry locations among seven males in West Virginia. Telemetry-delineated home ranges (100% and 50% minimum convex polygons [MCPs]) were two to four times larger than spot-mapped territories. Spot-mapped territories had minimal overlap among individual males, but home ranges had extensive space-use overlap in both the number and amount of MCP overlap among several males. Forty percent of telemetry locations were outside of spot-mapped territories. Sapling abundance was greater in home ranges (mean 22.5 saplings ± 2.1 SE) than spot-mapped territories in Pennsylvania (11.8 ± 1.9). In managed pastures of West Virginia, tree abundance was greater in home ranges (7.3 trees ± 0.8) than spot-mapped territories (1.9 ± 0.6). More telemetry locations than spot-mapped locations occurred in forest in both states, and telemetry locations were closer to intact forested edges of shrublands than spot-mapped locations in West Virginia. On several occasions, we observed radiomarked individuals >200 m (maximum of 1.5 km) from their MCP spot-mapped territory boundaries. Why Golden-winged Warblers leave their spot-mapped territories is unknown, but our observations suggest foraging, forays for extra-pair mating, and reconnaissance for postbreeding movements as possible motives. Our results from areas with low Golden-winged Warbler territory densities are similar to patterns reported for a high-density population in Minnesota. Ultimately, spot-mapping alone does not accurately reflect space use of Golden-winged Warblers during the breeding season, nor does it characterize all cover types used even in areas with relatively low territory densities. Current conservation plans for Golden-winged Warblers that are based on habitat characteristics measured within spot-mapped territories or at the landscape scale may not adequately incorporate space use at intermediate spatial scales of clusters of territories or home ranges.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2016
Title Space and habitat use by breeding Golden-winged Warblers in the central Appalachian Mountains
Authors Mack W. Frantz, Kyle R. Aldinger, Petra Wood, Joseph Duchamp, Timothy Nuttle, Andrew Vitz, Jeffrey L. Larkin
Publication Type Book Chapter
Publication Subtype Book Chapter
Series Title Studies in Avian Biology
Series Number
Index ID 70187383
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Coop Res Unit Leetown