Friday, September 4, 2015

Happy Anniversary! The White-crowned Pigeon tracked the longest by satellite begins his third year.

At ARCI, we celebrate anniversaries, special anniversaries of the date when a bird was captured and fitted with a satellite transmitter. Today is one such momentous occasion for the White-crowned Pigeon that we have tracked the longest by satellite. If you haven’t already, meet West. He was captured on 4 September 2013 at the Key West Tropical Forest and Botanical Gardens in the Florida Keys. He was the third bird of his kind to be tracked by satellite, using the smallest satellite-tracking technology available. Of the three Pigeons tagged in the Florida Keys in 2013, West is the only one still alive and transmitting.

West, fitted with a 5-gram satellite transmitter at the Key West Tropical Forest and Botanical Garden, has been transmitting since 2013.

What do two years in the life of an adult White-crowned Pigeon look like? This bird wintered both years in Everglades National Park. Three weeks after being tagged in 2013, West left Stock Island, close to Key West, and headed east-northeast to the Content Keys, staying just two days before flying on to Coot Bay in the southern Everglades. He returned to Stock Island at the beginning of the next nesting season, arriving there on 5 May 2014. We suspect that he nested that summer on Stock Island. 

Two years in the life of West, the longest satellite-tracked White-crowned Pigeon.

Beginning on 1 September, West spent six days in Marathon, on Vaca Key, then made a longer stopover on Plantation Key. But by 24 September, he was back in familiar territory in Everglades National Park, where he over-wintered. With spring’s arrival, West flew south on 26 March to Little Pine Key and spent two days there before returning to Stock Island on 28 March, 39 days earlier than the previous year.

Today, West is still roaming Stock Island, probably taking advantage of the many fruiting trees in the hardwood hammock that thrives on the grounds of the Key West Tropical Forest and Botanical Garden. 

During the nesting season, West's movements are centered around Stock Island, Florida.

We are very fortunate to have such enthusiastic and gracious partners at the Gardens, especially Misha McRae, Executive Director. The satellite transmitter on West and the others we deployed in 2013 were purchased with funding from the Florida Keys National Wildlife Refuge Complex, U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service. This summer, we returned to the Florida Keys and the southern Everglades to deploy additional satellite transmitters on six adult White-crowned Pigeons, this time with financial support from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. 

In addition to the White-crowned Pigeons we are tracking in Florida, we are also tracking several birds from breeding populations in Jamaica, The Bahamas, The Cayman Islands and Puerto Rico as part of a coordinated, range-wide study of the conservation biology of this fascinating bird.

You can follow the movements of tracked White-crowned Pigeons here: White-crowned Pigeon Tracking Maps