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Winter site fidelity and winter movements in Common Loons (Gavia immer) across North America

Paruk, James D., Chickering, Michael D., Long, Darwin, Uher-Koch, Hannah, East, Andrew, Poleschook, Daniel, Gumm, Virginia, Hanson, William, Adams, Evan M., Kovach, Kristin A., Evers, David C.
The Condor 2015 v.117 no.4 pp. 485-493
Gavia, adults, birds, breeding sites, oil spills, philopatry, satellites, survival rate, wintering grounds, California, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Washington (state)
In many avian species, breeding site fidelity has been more thoroughly investigated than winter site fidelity, yet the latter may have a greater impact on survivorship. The Common Loon (Gavia immer) is an example of a species whose breeding site fidelity has been well established, but whether it exhibits winter site fidelity remains unknown. Because Common Loons primarily winter in marine waters off coastal shores, winter site fidelity has been challenging to document. We investigated winter site fidelity in Common Loons across North America using satellite transmitters, recaptures, and resightings of previously color-marked individuals. Color-marked adults returned in consecutive years to the same coastal wintering locations in California, Washington, Louisiana, Maryland, and Massachusetts, USA. We estimated adult annual apparent survival as 77% (0.48–0.93) and adult winter site fidelity as 85% (0.35–0.98). This finding has important conservation implications in the aftermath of recent marine oil spills; if Common Loons return to the same contaminated wintering areas annually, decreased fitness and survivorship could result in population-level effects.