Population genetics of Mississippi kites (Ictinia mississippiensis) in the Southern Great Plains



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During the mid-1900's, Mississippi Kites expanded their breeding range from the southeastern coastal plains and Mississippi Alluvium Valley into the Great Plains. At the landscape level Mississippi Kites appear to be breeding abundantly throughout the southern Great Plains; however, at a finer scale, the breeding range is disjunct with Kites breeding in cities and exurban patches of trees with expanses of unsuitable landcover in-between. As such, the breeding landscape for this species is essentially a series of islands, each with its own breeding population. Given that site-fidelity is high, founder populations are small, and evidence suggests short natal dispersal, I hypothesized that Mississippi Kites will exhibit a localized genetic population structure across the landscape. I obtained genetic samples of Mississippi Kites across the southern Great Plains through salvaged feathers, loans from natural history collections, and donations from wildlife rehabilitation centers. From these samples (n = 33), I obtained genome-wide sequencing of single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) to determine population structure and genetic variation across the landscape. Results from STRUCTURE, PCA, AMOVA (0.01% of variation was among states), and a pairwise-FST (all comparisons < 0.001) suggested that the southern Great Plains Mississippi Kites are likely a panmictic population. Furthermore, the gene flow among Kites appears to high (average Nem = 320.57). As such, this panmictic population may be the result of natal dispersal or non-breeding adults migrating further than what was previously thought.