Theodore J. Zenzal Jr, Andrea J. Contina, Jeffrey F. Kelly and Frank R. Moore


Autumn latitudinal migrations generally exhibit one of two different temporal migration patterns: type 1 where southern populations migrate south before northern populations, or type 2 where northern populations overtake southern populations en route. The ruby-throated hummingbird (Archilochus colubris) is a species with an expansive breeding range, which allows opportunities to examine variation in the timing of migration. Our objective was to determine a relationship between natal origin of ruby-throated hummingbirds and arrival at a Gulf coast stopover site; and if so, what factors, such as differences in body size across the range as well as the cost of migration, might drive such a pattern. To carry out our objectives, we captured hummingbirds at a coastal stopover site during autumn migration, at which time we collected feathers from juveniles for analysis of hydrogen stable isotopes. Using the hydrogen stable isotope gradient of precipitation across North America and published hydrogen isotope values of feathers from populations of breeding ruby-throated hummingbirds, we assigned migrants to probable natal latitudes.

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