Geolocators reveal three consecutive wintering areas in the thrush nightingale

Robert Stach 1 , Sven Jakobsson 1 , Cecilia Kullberg 1  and Thord Fransson 2
  • 1 Department of Zoology, Stockholm University, S-106 91 Stockholm, Sweden
  • 2 Department of Vertebrate Zoology, Swedish Museum of Natural History, Box 50 007, S-104 05 Stockholm, Sweden

Geolocators reveal three consecutive wintering areas in the thrush nightingale

The winter distribution of many migratory birds wintering in tropical Africa is poorly known. After the crossing of the Sahara Desert, some long-distance migrants typically stay in the Sahel zone for an extended period before continuing migration to their main wintering areas south of the equator. Here we show how two thrush nightingales (Luscinia luscinia) fitted with light-level geolocators, after a six to seven week long stay in the Sahel zone of Sudan, moved to an intermediate area in northern Kenya for a month-long stay before continuing to their final wintering areas in southern Africa. These data indicate that thrush nightingales may use three consecutive wintering sites during their stay in Africa. The migratory movements in Africa between wintering sites are well-coordinated with high precipitation in these areas, suggesting that thrush nightingales track peaks of insect abundance occurring after rains. This three-stage wintering strategy has, to our knowledge, previously not been described, and shows that long-distance migrants can have complex wintering behaviour.

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