Wetland-dependent migratory songbirds represent one of the most vulnerable groups of birds on the planet, with >67% of wetland-obligate species threatened with extinction. One of the major hurdles for conservation efforts is determining the migration routes, stopover sites, and wintering sites of these species. We describe an annual migration cycle revealed by geolocator tracking of Great Reed-Warblers (Acrocephalus arundinaceus) breeding in the Aras River wetlands of eastern Turkey. Because of its relatively large size and breeding ground fidelity, the Great Reed-Warbler is an excellent candidate for geolocator studies and can serve as an indicator species for other wetland songbirds, many of which are particularly threatened in the Middle East. All birds made use of at least 2 wintering grounds in South Sudan, on the Indian Ocean coast and on the western shores of Lake Malawi, as well as several important stopover sites. We also identified a counterclockwise migration path into and out of Africa. Throughout the year, these birds encountered 277 Important Bird Areas, >40% of which had little or no protection. Many species of wetland songbird, particularly threatened species, may be too rare or too small to be the focus of similar studies. Our results not only allow for comparisons with other Great Reed-Warbler populations, but also reveal previously unknown stopover and wintering locations to target conservation efforts that will help wetland-dependent bird species in the Middle East and East Africa.
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Vol. 118 • No. 4