U.S. Department of Agriculture: Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service


Date of this Version



Behavioral Ecology (2011) 22 (5): 1096-1103; doi:10.1093/beheco/arr096


We investigated how individual strategies combine with demographic and ecological factors to determine local and migratory movements in the double-crested cormorants (Phalacrocorax auritus). One hundred and forty-five cormorants were captured from 14 nesting colonies across the Great Lakes area and fitted with satellite transmitters. We first tested the hypotheses that sexual segregation, density-dependent effects, and the intensity of management operations influenced home range size during the breeding season. The influence of these factors appeared to be limited in part due to random variability in foraging and dispersal decisions at individual and colony levels. We also designed a statistical framework to investigate the degree and determinants of migratory connectivity. Our analyses revealed a significant migratory connectivity in cormorants, although we also observed a nonnegligible amount of individual variability and flexibility. Our data were most consistent with the existence of a migratory divide across the Great Lakes, with western populations using mainly the Mississippi Flyway and eastern populations the Atlantic Flyway. Previous and current studies suggest that the divide cannot be explained by past divergence in isolation, a way to diminish travel cost, or the Appalachians constituting an ecological barrier per se but is rather the consequence of the distribution of suitable stopover and nonbreeding areas. However, a parallel migration system and no migratory divide could not be entirely ruled out with present data. Key words: home range, management, migratory connectivity, migratory divide, parallel migration, satellite telemetry.