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Declines of Aerial Insectivores in North America Follow a Geographic Gradient

DOI: 10.5751/ace-00391-050201

Keywords: aerial insectivores , geographical gradient , migration distance , migratory birds , North American Breeding Bird Survey , population decline

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Abstract:

North American birds that feed on aerial insects are experiencing widespread population declines. An analysis of the North American Breeding Bird Survey trend estimates for 1966 to 2006 suggests that declines in this guild are significantly stronger than in passerines in general. The pattern of decline also shows a striking geographical gradient, with aerial insectivore declines becoming more prevalent towards the northeast of North America. Declines are also more acute in species that migrate long distances compared to those that migrate short distances. The declines become manifest, almost without exception, in the mid 1980s. The taxonomic breadth of these downward trends suggests that declines in aerial insectivore populations are linked to changes in populations of flying insects, and these changes might be indicative of underlying ecosystem changes.

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