Migratory connectivity and population-specific migration routes in a long-distance migratory bird

Christiane Trierweiler, Raymond H.G. Klaassen, Rudi H. Drent, Klaus-Michael Exo, Jan Komdeur, Franz Bairlein, Ben J. Koks

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Abstract

Knowledge about migratory connectivity, the degree to which individuals from the same breeding site migrate to the same wintering site, is essential to understand processes affecting populations of migrants throughout the annual cycle. Here, we study the migration system of a long-distance migratory bird, the Montagu’s harrier Circus pygargus, by tracking individuals from different breeding populations throughout northern Europe. We identified three main migration routes towards wintering areas in sub-Saharan Africa. Wintering areas and migration routes of different breeding populations overlapped, a pattern best described by ‘weak (diffuse) connectivity’. Migratory performance, i.e. timing, duration, distance and speed of migration, was surprisingly similar for the three routes despite differences in habitat characteristics. This study provides, to our knowledge, a first comprehensive overview of the migration system of a Palaearctic-African long-distance migrant. We emphasize the importance of spatial scale (e.g. distances between breeding populations) in defining patterns of connectivity and suggest that knowledge about fundamental aspects determining distribution patterns, such as the among-individual variation in mean migration directions, is required to ultimately understand migratory connectivity. Furthermore, we stress that for conservation purposes it is pivotal to consider wintering areas as well as migration routes and in particular stopover sites.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)20132897-1-20132897-9
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society of London. Series B, Biological Sciences
Volume281
Issue number1778
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2014

Keywords

  • spatial scale
  • satellite tracking
  • raptor bird
  • migration speed
  • conservation
  • bird migration strategies

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