The Science of Nature

, 106:45 | Cite as

Sex-specific difference in migration schedule as a precursor of protandry in a long-distance migratory bird

  • Lykke PedersenEmail author
  • Nina Munkholt Jakobsen
  • Roine Strandberg
  • Kasper Thorup
  • Anders P. TøttrupEmail author
Original Paper


Protandry, the earlier arrival of males at the breeding grounds relative to females, is common in migratory birds. However, due to difficulties in following individual birds on migration, we still lack knowledge about the spatiotemporal origin of protandry during the annual cycle, impeding our understanding of the proximate drivers of this phenomenon. Here, we use full annual cycle tracking data of red-backed shrikes Lanius collurio to investigate the occurrence of sex-related differences in migratory pattern, which could be viewed as precursors (proximate causes) to protandry. We find protandry with males arriving an estimated 8.3 days (SE = 4.1) earlier at the breeding area than females. Furthermore, we find that, averaged across all departure and arrival events throughout the annual cycle, males migrate an estimated 5.3 days earlier than females during spring compared to 0.01 days in autumn. Event-wise estimates suggest that a divergence between male and female migratory schedules is initiated at departure from the main non-breeding area, thousands of kilometres from-, and several months prior to arrival at the breeding area. Duration of migration, flight speed during migration and spatial locations of stationary sites were similar between sexes. Our results reveal that protandry might arise from sex-differential migratory schedules emerging at the departure from the main non-breeding area in southern Africa and retained throughout spring migration, supporting the view that sex-differential selection pressure operates during spring migration rather than autumn migration.


Protandry Songbird migration Geolocator Red-backed shrike 



We thank P Ekberg, TE Ortvad, TL Petersen, PS Jørgensen, D Papageorgiou, DP Eskildsen, RHG Klaassen, Y Vardanis and M Ström-Eriksson for field assistance, H Sørensen and A Tolver for advice on statistical procedures and T Alerstam for advice and comments on the manuscript. We acknowledge the Aage V Jensen Foundation, as well as the Danish National Research Foundation, for supporting the Center for Macroecology, Evolution and Climate (Grant No. DNRF96). Capture and sampling methods were approved by the Copenhagen Bird Ringing Center with permission from the Danish Nature Agency ( SN 302-009). In Sweden, capture methods were approved by the Swedish Ringing Center with permission from the ethical committees in Malmö/Lund (M112-09).

Compliance with ethical standards

Informed consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

Ethical approval

All applicable international, national and/or institutional guidelines for the care and use of animals were followed.

Supplementary material

114_2019_1637_MOESM1_ESM.docx (405 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 405 kb)
114_2019_1637_MOESM2_ESM.docx (24 kb)
ESM 2 (DOCX 23 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Center for Macroecology, Evolution and Climate, Natural History Museum of DenmarkUniversity of CopenhagenCopenhagenDenmark
  2. 2.Data Science LaboratoryUniversity of CopenhagenCopenhagenDenmark
  3. 3.Department of Applied Mathematics and Computer ScienceTechnical University of DenmarkKongens LyngbyDenmark
  4. 4.Department of BiologyLund University, Ecology BuildingLundSweden

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