In May 2010, as part of a long-term study of whimbrel spring staging ecology in Georgia, Nongame Conservation Section staff partnered with colleagues at the Center for Conservation Biology (CCB) at the College of William and Mary to fit two northbound Georgia whimbrels with solar-powered satellite transmitters.
CCB staff, along with the Virginia chapter of The Nature Conservancy Coastal Reserve staff, have been tagging Virginia birds for three years. Both the Virginia and Georgia chapters of The Nature Conservancy, as well as the Nongame Conservation Section's friends group, The Environmental Resources Network (T.E.R.N.), have been instrumental in funding these projects.
Whimbrels coming from wintering grounds on the coast of South America spend 6-8 weeks feeding in the marshes of mid- and southeastern Atlantic states. These large-bodied shorebirds put on significant weight during these weeks by eating tremendous numbers of fiddler crabs. Like red knots gorging on horseshoe crab eggs, thin whimbrels touching down in April begin to resemble footballs before leaving in late May. The energy they store in fat and muscle will carry them far.
This species represents many other migrant shorebirds that depend entirely on the thin margin of coastal wetland habitats that border the Atlantic states as they prepare to launch into the Arctic to establish territories and nest. Protecting and maintaining the integrity and health of our coastal lands through risk-averse management and broad conservation efforts has benefits locally and to life well beyond our borders.
Thanks to the efforts by CCB staff and Michael Coyne at SEATURTLE.ORG, maps of the Georgia whimbrels are now available to the public, along with maps of the Virginia birds. Post-nesting migration will soon bring these birds south again. To see the maps with current locations click here or visit:
1. Wildlife Tracking
2. Click on the drop down menu "Animals."
3. Then "birds."
4. Then "Whimbrel" near the bottom.
5. Click on the names of the whimbrels to see their maps. The Georgia birds are Ann (Ossabaw Island, May 19) and Chinquapin (Altamaha River, May 22). For two Virgina birds that have reshuffled conventional shorebird wisdom concerning whimbrel migration, check out Winnie and Hope.