Scott J. Werner http://orcid.org/0000-0002-3483-7402
Date of this Version
Werner SJ, Fischer JW, Hobson KA (2020) Multi-isotopic (δ2H, δ13C, δ15N) tracing of molt origin for European starlings associated with U.S. dairies and feedlots. PLoS ONE 15(8): e0237137.
Introduced bird species can become invasive in agroecosystems and their management is inhibited if their origin and movements are not well understood. Stable isotope measurements of feathers can be used to infer molt origins and interstate movements in North America. We analyzed stable-hydrogen (δ2H), carbon (δ13C) and nitrogen (δ 15N) isotope ratios in feathers to better understand the molt origin of European starlings (Sturnus vulgaris) collected at dairies and feedlots throughout the United States. Primary feathers were used from 596 adult and 90 juvenile starlings collected during winter at dairies and feedlots that experience starling damages in Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Texas, Vermont, Washington and Wisconsin. The best-fit model indicated that the combination of feather δ2H, δ13C and δ15N values best predicted the state where samples were collected and thus supported use of this approach for tracing molt origins in European starlings. Interestingly, molt origins of starlings collected at dairies and feedlots generally west of −90˚ longitude (i.e. 11 of 15 states west of the Mississippi River, including Wisconsin) were assigned to the collection state and/or the state adjacent to the collection state. In contrast, molt origins of starlings collected generally east of −90˚ longitude (four of five eastern states) were not assigned to the collection state and/or the state adjacent to the collection state. Among all starlings (N = 686), 23% were assigned to the collection state and 19% were assigned to the state adjacent to the collection state. Among all males (N = 489) and all females (N = 197), 23% and 26% were assigned to the collection state and 19% and 13% were assigned to the state adjacent to the collection state, respectively. We observed a greater proportion (88%) of juvenile starlings assigned to states other than their collection state (i.e. potentially a result of natal dispersal) than that proportion (76%) in adult starlings. This study included an unprecedented sample of feather isotopes from European starlings throughout the United States. As a novel contribution to the ecology and management of invasive and migratory passerines, we demonstrate how such feather isoscapes can be used to predict molt origin and, potentially, interstate movements of European starlings for subsequent ecological and management investigations.
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