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BY-NC-ND 3.0 license Open Access Published by De Gruyter Open Access April 17, 2015

Prolonged stopover duration characterises migration strategy and constraints of a long-distance migrant songbird

  • Debora Arlt , Peter Olsson , James W Fox , Matthew Low and Tomas Pärt
From the journal Animal Migration


Stopover behaviour is a central element of migration strategies. But in recent geolocator studies, despite now being able to track individual songbirds during their entire migration, their stopover behaviour has received little attention. We used light-sensitive geolocators to identify the migratory routes and schedules of 12 northern wheatears (Oenanthe oenanthe) breeding in Sweden. Three geolocators collected temperature data complementing inferences from light data by providing additional information on behaviour during migration. The wheatears performed a slow migration with considerable stopover time (84%/76% of autumn/spring migration), with short stops while traveling through Europe, and a prolonged stopover period in both autumn and spring in the Mediterranean region. Spring migration was faster than autumn migration, mainly because of decreased stopover time. Migration routes and time schedules were similar to those from a German breeding population. Compared to wheatears breeding in Alaska with a three-fold migration distance, Swedish wheatears spent more time during stopovers during autumn and spring migration, suggesting less time constraints and potential flexibility in migration schedules. The finding of prolonged stopovers, similar to other recent geolocator studies, shows that temporary residency periods may be common. This changes our current view on stopover ecology to one where temporary residency periods are part of spatio-temporal strategies optimising resource use during the entire annual cycle.


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Received: 2014-12-09
Accepted: 2015-03-22
Published Online: 2015-04-17
Published in Print: 2015-01-01

© 2015 Debora Arlt et al.

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 3.0 License.

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