Whimbrel Tracking in the Americas

The Center for Conservation Biology

Dataset credit

Data provider
Center for Conservation Biology
Originating data center
Satellite Tracking and Analysis Tool (STAT)
Project partner
Funding, staff, and additional resources for this project were provided by the following partners: The Nature Conservancy (Virginia and Georgia Chapters), Georgia Department of Natural Resources, US Fish and Wildlife Service, Canadian Wildlife Service, Manomet Center for Conservation Studies, and the Center for Conservation Biology.


Primary contact Marie Pitts Center for Conservation Biology
Data entry Michael Coyne seaturtle.org



The whimbrel is a large, holarctic, highly migratory shorebird. The North American race includes two disjunct breeding populations both of which winter primarily in Central and South America. The western population breeds in Alaska and the Northwest Territories of Canada. The eastern population breeds south and west of Hudson Bay in Manitoba and Ontario. It has generally been believed that the western population follows a Pacific Coast migration route between breeding and wintering areas and that the Hudson Bay population follows an Atlantic Coast route. Both populations are of high conservation concern due to dramatic declines in recent decades.

For more than a decade, scientists have believed that the seaside of the lower Delmarva Peninsula in Virginia played a significant role in the life cycle of the whimbrel. During spring migration in the mid-1990s, Bryan Watts from the Center for Conservation Biology at the College of William and Mary and Barry Truitt of The Nature Conservancy documented the densest concentration of whimbrels ever recorded in the western hemisphere within the barrier island lagoon system of the lower Delmarva Peninsula. Since that time, it has been believed that the Eastern Shore of Virginia represents a critical, coastal staging area where birds feed on the staggering numbers of fiddler crabs that inhabit the lagoon system and build up energy reserves before making their last overland flight to the breeding grounds. However, it has always been assumed that the birds staging along the lower Delmarva were exclusively from the Hudson Bay population. The flight documented in spring 2008 (see Winnie's map) has forced a change in thinking regarding the origin of birds using this stopover site.

Beginning in 2008, the Center for Conservation Biology collaborated with The Nature Conservancy to investigate the stopover ecology of whimbrels along the Delmarva Peninsula. The study includes aerial surveys to estimate seasonal numbers, traditional transmitters to examine stopover periods, and satellite transmitters to document migration pathways and breeding destinations for birds leaving the site. The seaside of the Delmarva Peninsula has been recognized as a globally important bird area, a hemispheric shorebird reserve, and a UNESCO biosphere reserve. The discovery that whimbrels use the site as a terminal staging area before embarking on a transcontinental flight suggests that the site is uniquely suited to provide the tremendous amount of energy required to prepare birds for such a flight.

Continued research planned by CCB and TNC in Virginia will investigate whimbrel stopover ecology and the broader strategic importance of this site to whimbrel populations.

In 2010, Georgia Department of Natural Resources began tracking Whimbrel from another important migration stopover on the east coast of North America. Georgia's barrier island and salt-marsh complex provide excellent stopover habitat for refueling on their migration from their wintering grounds in South America to the breeding grounds in the Arctic.

Names for the Vriginia Whimbrels are landmarks near where the Whimbrel congregate on the Eastern Shore of Virginia (Hope Creek, Box Tree, Fowling Point, Elkins Marsh, Hope Creek, Indian Creek, town of Machipongo, Webb Island, Ramshorn Channel, Mill Creek, and Kitt Creek).



Supplemental information

Visit STAT's project page for additional information.




This section explains attributes included in the original dataset. OBIS-SEAMAP restricts the attributes available to the public to date/time, lat/lon and species names/counts only. Should you need other attributes described here, you are encouraged to contact the data provider.

Attributes described below represent those in the original dataset provided by the provider.
Only minimum required attributes are visible and downloadable online. Other attributes may be obtained upon provider's permission.

Attributes in dataset

Attribute (table column)Description
prognumProgram number
tag_idPTT ID
lcLocation class
iqQuality indicator
dir1Dir 1
nb_mesNumber of messages received
big_nb_mesdefinition not provided
best_levelBest signal strength in dB
pass_durationPass duration in seconds
nopcNumber Of Plausibility Checks successful (from 0-4)
calcul_freqCalculated frequency
altitudeAltitude used for location calculation
speciesSpecies name
project_idSTAT Project ID
lc_filterParameters to location filtering
speed_filterParameters to speed filtering
distance_filterParameters to distance filtering
topo_filterParameters to topo filtering
time_filterParameters to time filtering
angle_filterParameters to angle filtering
life_stageLife stage of the animal
genderGender of the animal
wetdryWet or dry
wetdry_filterParameters to Wet or dry filterint
obs_datetimeDate and time (local time zone)
timezone_hTime difference from UTC
Marine mammals0
Sea turtles0
Rays and sharks0
Other species34,465
Non spatial0
Non species0
Date, Begin2008-04-18
Date, End2023-09-11
Temporal prec.111111
Latitude-9.36 - 82.86
Longitude99.46 - 350.87
Coord. prec.3 decimal digits
Data typeTelemetry location
TracklinesYES (ID: 1410)
Traveled (km)1,660,120
Travel hours443,506
Contr. throughSatellite Tracking and Analysis Tool
Sharing policy Permission required
Shared with SWOT
GBIF (via DOI)*
* Aggregated summary
See metadata in static HTML
See metadata in FGDC XML
See download history / statistics