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Oecologia

, Volume 178, Issue 4, pp 1105–1112 | Cite as

Light-level geolocators reveal covariation between winter plumage molt and phenology in a trans-Saharan migratory bird

  • Nicola Saino
  • Diego Rubolini
  • Roberto Ambrosini
  • Maria Romano
  • Chiara Scandolara
  • Graham D. Fairhurst
  • Manuela Caprioli
  • Andrea Romano
  • Beatrice Sicurella
  • Felix Liechti
Behavioral ecology - Original research

Abstract

Contingent individual performance can depend on the environment experienced at previous life-stages. Migratory birds are especially susceptible to such carry-over effects as they periodically travel between breeding ranges and ‘wintering’ areas where they may experience broadly different ecological conditions. However, the study of carry-over effects is hampered by the difficulty of tracking vagile organisms throughout their annual life-cycle. Using information from light-level geolocators on the barn swallow (Hirundo rustica), we tested if feather growth bar width (GBW), a proxy of feather growth rate which depends on individual condition, and wing isometric size and shape predict the phenology of subsequent migration. GBW did not predict duration of wintering but negatively predicted the duration of spring migration and arrival date to the breeding sites, suggesting that migration phenology is not constrained by molt, and individuals in prime condition achieve both faster molt and earlier arrival. Wing morphology did not predict migration duration, as expected if wing shape were optimized for foraging, rather than migration performance, in this aerially foraging, insectivorous bird. Thus, we showed for the first time that migration phenology in a long-distance migratory bird covaries with body condition during wintering, as reflected by the growth rate of feathers.

Keywords

Feather growth rate Light-level geolocators Migration phenology Molt Wing morphology 

Supplementary material

442_2015_3299_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (36 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 37 kb)

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nicola Saino
    • 1
  • Diego Rubolini
    • 1
  • Roberto Ambrosini
    • 2
  • Maria Romano
    • 1
  • Chiara Scandolara
    • 1
    • 3
  • Graham D. Fairhurst
    • 4
  • Manuela Caprioli
    • 1
  • Andrea Romano
    • 1
  • Beatrice Sicurella
    • 2
  • Felix Liechti
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of BiosciencesUniversity of MilanMilanItaly
  2. 2.Department of Biotechnology and BiosciencesUniversity of Milano-BicoccaMilanItaly
  3. 3.Swiss Ornithological InstituteSempachSwitzerland
  4. 4.Department of BiologyUniversity of SaskatchewanSaskatoonCanada

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