The Stutchbury lab does research on the conservation biology and ecology of migratory songbirds in North America. We pioneered the use light level “geolocators” to track individual songbirds to their wintering grounds and back. Geolocators are a now a widely used and critical conservation tool for songbirds that allows us to identify the core wintering regions and stopover sites, and hence potential threats. We have accumulated large geolocator data sets, across the breeding range, for both Wood Thrushes (>100 birds) and Purple Martins (>250 birds) that allow us to test many questions about migration ecology and conservation.


McKinnon et al. 2013 geolocator review.pdf

Stutchbury et al. 2009 geolocator tracking.pdf


Wood Thrush Migration

We have tracked Wood Thrushes from sites across the breeding and wintering range to study the carry-over effects from breeding to fall migration, the flexibility in timing of departure from Central America, the differences in spring migration schedule between naive juveniles and experienced adults, and to create a migratory connectivity map for the species.



McKinnon et al. 2015. Carry over effects. pdf

McKinnon et al. 2014 Juvenile migration.pdf

Stanley et al. 2015 Migratory connectivity.pdf

Stanley et al. 2012 Inflexible migration schedules.pdf

Stutchbury et al. 2010 Breeding/molt carry over effect.pdf


Purple Martin Migration


In collaboration with the Purple Martin Conservation Association, we have teamed up with researchers, biologists, and volunteers across North America to track hundreds of purple martins. We have identified the core wintering sites occupied in Brazil, tested whether populations could migrate earlier in the warmest year on record, and mapped how birds navigate the Gulf of Mexico barrier in fall. We are currently studying how landscape cover and rainfall influences intra-tropical migration and the extent of individual flexibility in timing and routes.

Fraser et al. 2013. Spring migration warmest year.pdf

Fraser et al. 2013. Fall pace and Gulf of Mexico.pdf

Fraser et al. 2012. Purple Martin Migratory Connectivity.pdf


Habitat Quality and Juvenile Survival of Songbirds



Understanding the ecology of songbirds, on both the breeding and wintering grounds, is fundamental to developing informed conservation strategies. Very little is known about the survival of young after they leave the nest because they must be radio-tracked. Even less is know about their fate after they disperse from their parent's territory. Our new research program will use the MOTUS automated telemetry array in southwestern Ontario to track the dispersal, survival and onset of all migration in declining grassland and forest birds.


Tarof et al. 2011. Juvenile survival purple martin.pdf

Eng et al. 2011. Fledgling survival hooded warbler. pdf

Moore et al. 2010. Fledgling survival grosbeak.pdf

Imlay et al. 2010. Juvenile survival shrike.pdf

Direct Impacts of Humans on Songbirds

MSc student Sean Chin is conducting a study of window-collision mortality on the York U campus to better quantify overall mortality and to  identify potential building in need of mitigation.



New research projects have begun in collaboration with Dr. Christy Morrissey (U Saskatchewan) to study the impacts sub-lethal effects of pesticides on songbird migration.





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