Seminar: Why Do Birds Migrate? Causes and Consequences of Seasonal Movements


Migration is one of the most awe-inspiring behaviors in animals and particularly spectacular in birds.  We know quite a bit about the patterns and physiological adaptations of avian migration, but we know comparatively little about the ultimate causes of bird migration (i.e., why some individuals migrate while others do not). For the past 20 years, my students and I have sought to test alternative mechanistic hypotheses to explain the drivers of migratory behavior in birds. We have tested these hypotheses in several systems to explain continental patterns in avian migratory behavior using stable isotopes, quantitative genetics, geolocators, satellite transmitters, and Bayesian modeling, and we’ve used multiple lines of inquiry (field experiments, correlative studies, genetic studies, and comparative analyses across the continent). Moreover, several of our study species are species of national conservation concern and our results have helped regulatory agencies better manage these species. I’ll summarize the results of these studies and provide a synopsis of our current understanding of the causes and consequences of migration in birds.


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Courtney Conway, Ph.D. Professor of Wildlife Sciences at University of Idaho


3 p.m. Feb. 14, 2024