The paradox of Spoonbill migration: Most birds travel to where survival rates are lowest

Tamar Lok*, Otto Overdijk, Joost M. Tinbergen, Theunis Piersma

*Corresponding author voor dit werk

OnderzoeksoutputAcademicpeer review

61 Citaten (Scopus)
596 Downloads (Pure)


Migrant birds face a choice where to spend the winter. Presumably there is a trade-off between migration distance (costs) and the quality of the wintering site (benefits). Wintering site fidelity is often high and increases with age. Hypotheses to explain such a pattern assume that wintering site choice maximizes fitness. We compared wintering site choice and age-dependent site fidelity in Eurasian spoonbills, Platalea leucorodia leucorodia, for the period 1992-2010. During their first southward migration, most spoonbills migrated to the southernmost wintering region (Mauritania and Senegal). Other birds were likely to move there from their first to their second winter, whereas hardly any birds moved to a more northerly wintering area. For the rest of their life, spoonbills remained highly site faithful. This resulted in most birds wintering in Mauritania and Senegal with smaller numbers in France and Iberia. We judged suitability of sites on the basis of annual survival probabilities in these three wintering areas. Surprisingly, survival was lowest in Mauritania and Senegal. None of the existing fitness maximization hypotheses explain this pattern and we discuss potential alternatives. Wintering site choice could still be optimal for individual birds if birds wintering in Mauritania and Senegal are competitively inferior to the European winterers or more susceptible to severe winter weather. Alternatively, wintering site choice of spoonbills is suboptimal and, assuming that spoonbills can assess differences in suitability, limited flexibility may prevent them from switching to more suitable sites. (C) 2011 The Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Originele taal-2English
Pagina's (van-tot)837-844
Aantal pagina's8
TijdschriftAnimal Behavior
Nummer van het tijdschrift4
StatusPublished - okt.-2011


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  • Metawad

    Piersma, T. (Hoofdonderzoeker), Olff, H. (Hoofdonderzoeker), Govers, L. (Postdoc), Crets - Fokkema, W. (PhD student), Reneerkens, J. (PhD student), Oudman, T. (PhD student), Geest ,van der, M. (PhD student), de Goeij, P. (Technician), Hooijmeijer, J. (Technician), Bijleveld, A. (PhD student), Lok, T. (PhD student) & Duijns, S. (PhD student)


    Project: Research

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