Life Science Mass Spectrometry Facility

Elucidating the Movements of Migratory Birds through the Combined use of Stable Isotope ‘Signatures’ and DNA Markers

For the majority of avian species, migration is a fundamental aspect of their life history. To understand the ecology of avian migration, it is important to link geographic regions used by individuals throughout the annual cycle. Thanks to the efforts of bird ringers, who use the traditional mark-recapture technique, the migratory pathways used by some species have been identified. However, recovery rates for ringed birds are usually very low, and for many species not enough individuals are ringed to enable their migration routes to be studied. Recent advances in the development of molecular genetic markers and increasing use of chemical stable isotopes have opened up exciting new avenues for identifying the breeding origins of birds on migration. Such techniques allow us to use a few body feathers which often fall out naturally during handling for ringing, and birds only need to be caught once and then released. This project uses the novel approach of combining stable isotopes with DNA markers to investigate the breeding origins of redwings Turdus iliacus and blackbirds T. merula overwintering in the UK.

L Coiffait, R Bevan, C Redfern, J Newton, K Wolff. (2007). Elucidating the movements of migratory birds through the combined use of stable isotope "signatures" and DNA markers. Waterbirds of the World, ISBN 0114973334

For more details contact:

    Lisette Coiffait,
    University of Newcastle upon Tyne
    School of Biology
    Ridley Building
    NE1 7RU, UK