Semipalmated Sandpiper (Calidris pusilla) populations have undergone significant declines at core nonbreeding sites in northeastern South America. Breeding populations have also declined in the eastern North American Arctic, but appear to be stable or increasing in the central and western Arctic. To identify vulnerable populations and sites, we documented the migratory connectivity of Semipalmated Sandpipers using light-level geolocators, deploying 250 at 8 Arctic sites across the species' breeding range from 2011 to 2015, plus 87 at a single wintering site in northeastern Brazil in 2013 and 2014. We recovered 59 units and resighted 7 more (26% return rate) on the breeding grounds, but none at the nonbreeding site. We recovered only ∼3% of units deployed in 2013 at eastern Arctic breeding sites, but recovered 33% of those deployed in 2015. Overall, birds with geolocators were 57% as likely to return as those carrying alphanumeric flags. Stopover durations at prairie sites (mean: 8.7 days southbound, 6.7 days northbound) were comparable with durations estimated by local banding studies, but geolocator-tagged birds had longer stopovers than previously estimated at James and Hudson Bay, the Bay of Fundy, and the Gulf of Mexico. Migration routes confirmed an eastern Arctic connection with northeastern South America. Birds from eastern Alaska, USA, and far western Canada wintered from Venezuela to French Guiana. Central Alaskan breeders wintered across a wider range from Ecuador to French Guiana. Birds that bred in western Alaska wintered mainly on the west coasts of Central America and northwestern South America, outside the nonbreeding region in which population declines have been observed. Birds that bred in the eastern Arctic and used the Atlantic Flyway wintered in the areas in South America where declines have been reported, whereas central Arctic–breeding populations were apparently stable. This suggests that declines may be occurring on the Atlantic Flyway and in the eastern Arctic region.
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Vol. 119 • No. 2