Strong migratory connectivity and seasonally shifting isotopic niches in geographically separated populations of a long-distance migrating songbird
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- Hahn, S., Amrhein, V., Zehtindijev, P. et al. Oecologia (2013) 173: 1217. doi:10.1007/s00442-013-2726-4
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Whether migratory animals use similar resources during continental-scale movements that characterize their annual cycles is highly relevant to both individual performances and population dynamics. Direct knowledge of the locations and resources used by migrants during non-breeding is generally scarce. Our goal was to estimate migratory connectivity of a small Palaearctic long-distance migrant, the common nightingale Luscinia megarhynchos, and to compare resources used in non-breeding areas with resources used at the breeding grounds. We tracked individuals of three geographically separated populations and characterised their stable isotope niches during breeding and non-breeding over 2 years. Individuals spent the non-breeding period in population-specific clusters from west to central Africa, indicating strong migratory connectivity at the population level. Irrespective of origin, their isotopic niches were surprisingly similar within a particular period, although sites of residence were distant. However, niche characteristics differed markedly between breeding and non-breeding periods, indicating a consistent seasonal isotopic niche shift in the sampled populations. Although nightingales of distinct breeding populations migrated to different non-breeding areas, they chose similar foraging conditions within specific periods. However, nightingales clearly changed resource use between breeding and non-breeding periods, indicating adaptations to changes in food availability.