Virginia and Yellow Rail Autumn Migration Phenology and Habitat Use
Virginia and Yellow Rail Autumn Migration Phenology and Habitat Use in the Mississippi Flyway
Auriel M.V. Fournier *(1), Doreen C. Mengel (2), David G. Krementz (3) 1. Arkansas Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, University of Arkansas, 1 University Drive, Fayetteville, AR 72701 2. Missouri Department of Conservation Resource Science Division, 3500 E Gans Rd, Columbia, MO 65201 3. USGS Arkansas Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, University of Arkansas, 1 University Drive, Fayetteville, AR 72701
Virginia and Yellow Rails are elusive, poorly studied marshbirds found across North America with a specific lack of information about their autumn migration ecology and migratory habitat use. We conducted nocturnal surveys across 11 public wetlands in Missouri, USA from 2012-2016, and compared the timing of autumn migration from our surveys with from three opportunistic datasets: 1) eBird records, 2) building strikes, and 3) state ornithological records. The timing of Virginia Rail autumn migration varied between the opportunistic data and our surveys. Opportunistic data had two peaks, while our surveys had a single peak the second week in October. Yellow Rail autumn migration through Missouri peaked earlier in our surveys than opportunistic datasets which peaked during the second week in October. Both rails were found in moist soil habitats, however Virginia Rails selected perennial species more than was available, while Yellow Rails selected annual species. Both species showed no selection for water depth and used shallowly flooded wetlands. Understanding the autumn migration period and habitat requirements will allow wetland managers to better manage lands for autumn migrating Virginia and Yellow Rails.