The Canadian Snow Bunting Network (CSBN) is a collaboration between citizen scientists and academic researchers to understand the mechanisms behind the rapid decline in North American populations (as much as 64%) over the past 40 years (National Audubon Society). Volunteer bird banders and amateur naturalists from across Canada and the Northern US are playing a very large part in this undertaking by catching, banding and collecting scientific data and samples across multiple wintering populations. Since Snow buntings are highly nomadic during the winter we know little about how flocks are structured (age classes and sexes), where certain breeding populations winter, and even less about whether their within- and across-year movement patterns are influenced by climate change.
We are now combining banding and tracking data from the MOTUS network with information from Stable Isotope Analyses and Geolocator Technology to provide vital information on the breeding locations and migratory connectivity of these wintering populations, information that is critical to assessing the relative conservation implications of habitat changes in Southern wintering locations and the effects of climate change on breeding success. This work is now leading to global population genetics studies to examine how and why breeding populations may have diverged over time. Understanding winter movement and connectivity between wintering and breeding populations will help direct conservation efforts for this, and other, iconic Canadian Arctic-breeding avian species.