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. 2014 Juvenile migration.pdf

Stanley et al. 2014 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


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 and nesting behaviour.


Breeding and Winter Ecology of Songbirds


Understanding the ecology of songbirds, on both the breeding and wintering grounds, is fundamental to developing informed conservation strategies. We have worked with the Purple Martin Conservation Association to analyze long-term term data sets to estimate juvenile and adult survival. PhD students Pat Kramer & Cassandra Silverio are currently completing their dissertations on how extra-pair paternity, and parasite loads, affect reproductive success and survival in Purple Martins.  Earlier radio-tracking studies estimated fledgling and juvenile survival in Eastern Loggerhead Shrikes, Hooded Warblers and Rose-breasted Grosbeaks.


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




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