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Foraging by a Summer Tanager during a reorientation flight

Volu me 33 Nu mbe r 3 83
Foraging by a Summer Tanager
during a reorientation flight
Brandon R. Holden and Kenneth G.D. Burrell
Spring reorientation flights (see Burrell
et al.
2015, this issue) of landbirds are a rarely
studied phenomenon in North America.
The region of Point Pelee National Park,
near Leamington, On tario, has regular
reorientation flights involving dozens of
species and thousands of individuals, pre-
dominantly in May (Lewis 1939, Gunn
1951, Burrell 2012, 2013). These flights
have raised questions about the physio-
logical demands placed on the individu-
als involved as the elevated energy
requirements of migration on passerines
is well documented (Richardson 1978,
Van Dor en
et al.
2015). This note docu-
ments a Summer Tanager (
Piranga rubra
interrupting its spring reorientation flight
to forage. No other observations of birds
doing this have been noted by the authors
during previous surveys of spring reori-
entation in the Great Lakes region.
On 12 May 2014, Holden was ob -
serving a reorientation flight at the tip of
Point Pelee National Park. During mid-
morning, he recorded two observations
of Summer Tanager; a first-alternate male
at 0924 EDT and an alternate female at
1009 EDT (cf. Humphrey and Parkes
1959). While the male flew steadily
southwards over the waters of Lake Erie,
the female interrupted her passage to for-
age, a behaviour not noted during previ-
ous observations of spring reorientation
flights (K. Burrell pers.obs.). As she
approached the tip of Point Pelee from
the north at an estimated height of 50m,
she made an erratic flight, followed by a
rapid descent to the southernmost trees
on Point Pelee. Holden observed that she
had captured a wasp and she spent the
following three minutes consuming the
prey item. Upon consumption, she rap-
idly ascended from her perch and con-
tinued her flight southwards over the
waters of Lake Erie. The sequence was
captured with a Canon DSLR and
600mm lens (Figures 1, 2, and 3). An
additional forty minutes of observation
yielded no further observations of Sum-
mer Tanager foraging.
The Summer Tanager is one of the
quintessential ‘reverse migrants’ in On -
tario; observations of reorientation flights
at Point Pelee and nearby Pelee Island
have documented the species relatively
frequently (Burrell 2013). With no con-
firmed nesting of Summer Tanager for
the province (Reid 2007), observations
84 Ontar io Birds Dece mbe r 2 015
of the species most likely pertain to over-
shooting migrants beyond their tradition-
al breeding grounds (Robinson 2012).
The individual documented here was pre-
sumably migrating south, flying from
Point Pelee National Park south over the
waters of Lake Erie. While it would be dif-
ficult to fully understand the energy
expenditure placed on a single individual
during a spring reorientation flight, this
observation would indicate that the phe-
nomenon is not en grossing to the point of
stopping basic foraging instincts. Given
the amount of time undertaken by the
authors documenting spring reorientation
flights in the Pelee region, this observation
was specifically noteworthy given the fact
that no previous observations of this
nature have been documented (i.e. indi-
viduals engaged in spring reorientation
flights abruptly stopping their flight and
consuming prey, before resuming flight
southwards). As such, we hope this ob -
servation can provide but a small piece in
helping to understand reorientation flights
in the future and greater insight into the
documentation and understanding of for-
aging behaviour and energetic needs of
reorienting passerines.
Figure 1. The female Summer Tanager seconds after
her capture of a wasp sp. at 1009 EDT on 12 May
Figure 2. Consumption of the wasp sp. on one of
Canada’s southernmost mainland trees at 1010 EDT
on 12 May 2014. The consumption of bees and wasps
by Summer Tanager is characteristic of the species
(Robinson 2012).
Figure 3. Following the consumption of the wasp sp.,
the female Summer Tanager rapidly ascended and
continued her reorientation flight at 1013 EDT
on 12 May 2014.
Photos: Brandon R. Holden
Volu me 33 Nu mbe r 3 85
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Brandon R. Holden
1709-301 Frances Ave.
Stoney Creek, Ontario L8E 3W6
Kenneth G.D. Burrell
Natural Resource Solutions Inc.
225 Labrador Drive,
Waterloo, Ontario N2K 4M8
ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any citations for this publication.
Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology
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