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Join The Small Sit, Manomet’s virtual science series, each month as we learn about the wonders of why birds migrate, the importance of river herring in coastal food webs, and so much more!

On December 7th, step into the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and get into the mind of a Whimbrel to learn about their migratory strategies during nesting season with Manomet’s Senior Shorebird Scientist, Shiloh Schulte. This program is free, but registration is required. 

Whimbrels are representatives of the most imperiled group of shorebirds, curlews and godwits. The population of Whimbrels that migrate along the Western Atlantic is in sharp decline, and the status of the Pacific Coast population is uncertain. Previous tracking studies in interior and North-central Alaska showed tracked birds using the Pacific Flyway during migration. From 2021 to 2023, we tracked 26 GPS-tagged Whimbrel nesting in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Northeast Alaska. To our surprise, these tracked birds showed a remarkable and distinct split in migration strategies despite all nesting in close geographic proximity, and in multiple cases being members of a breeding pair. Thirteen birds went down the Pacific Flyway and thirteen went down the Atlantic Flyway. This finding suggests that the Refuge is a transition zone where Eastern and Western populations overlap and that the declines observed in the Eastern population likely represent declines also occurring on the Refuge. Further, this information means that Whimbrels using the Refuge could be affected by threats occurring on both flyways, including oils spills, proposed wind turbine farms, shooting in the Caribbean and northeastern South America, and human disturbance. Join Shiloh to hear about his fascinating research in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge!