Adults of several species of western North American passerines are known to migrate to the Mexican monsoon region to undergo molt from July to October before continuing migration to their wintering grounds in the neotropics, but little is known about the biology and habitat requirements of these birds on their molting grounds. Therefore we established 13 banding stations during the monsoon seasons of 2007 and 2008 in southeastern Arizona, central Sonora, and central Sinaloa. We studied the spatial and temporal occurrence of 10 previously known and 9 new species of molt migrants on the molting grounds. In many of these species most or all individuals appeared to undertake molt migration but in others it appeared to be limited to a small proportion of the population, underscoring that molt migration must be defined at the level of the individual rather than of the population. Our results suggest that during the drier 2007 monsoon season molt migrants sought out riparian habitats, whereas in the wetter 2008 season, when the flush of vegetation was greater, they were more widely distributed in drier habitats. Site fidelity to molting grounds was virtually zero, significantly less than site fidelity to banding stations on breeding and winter grounds. Our results suggest that molt migration to the Mexican monsoon region is a stochastic or plastic process, substantially influenced by individual choices related to variation in weather and the preceding breeding season. Our study also emphasizes the need to conserve a mosaic of habitats in the monsoon region appropriate for molting birds.
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Vol. 111 • No. 4