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Partial altitudinal migration of the Near Threatened satyr tragopan Tragopan satyra in the Bhutan Himalayas: implications for conservation in mountainous environments

  • Nawang Norbu (a1), Ugyen (a1), Martin C. Wikelski (a2) and David S. Wilcove (a3)
Abstract

Relative to long-distance migrants, altitudinal migrants have been understudied, perhaps because of a perception that their migrations are less complex and therefore easier to protect. Nonetheless, altitudinal migrants may be at risk as they are subject to ongoing anthropogenic pressure from land use and climate change. We used global positioning system/accelerometer telemetry to track the partial altitudinal migration of the satyr tragopan Tragopan satyra in central Bhutan. The birds displayed a surprising diversity of migratory strategies: some individuals did not migrate, others crossed multiple mountains to their winter ranges, others descended particular mountains, and others ascended higher up into the mountains in winter. In all cases migration between summer breeding and winter non-breeding grounds was accomplished largely by walking, not by flying. Females migrated in a south-easterly direction whereas males migrated in random directions. During winter, migrants occupied south-east facing slopes whereas residents remained on south-west facing slopes. Migratory and resident tragopans utilized a range of forest types, with migratory individuals preferring cool broadleaved forests during winter. These complex patterns of migration suggest that conservation measures should extend across multiple mountains, protect the full range of forest types and encompass multiple landscape configurations to protect aspect diversity. Given the diversity of migratory strategies employed by this single species it seems clear that more research on altitudinal migrants is needed to understand what must be done to ensure their future in an era of widespread land-use and climate change.

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Corresponding author
(Corresponding author) E-mail norbu.nawang@gmail.com
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