, Volume 182, Issue 4, pp 985–994 | Cite as

Provenance does matter: links between winter trophic segregation and the migratory origins of European robins

  • Paulo CatryEmail author
  • Ana R. Campos
  • José Pedro Granadeiro
  • Júlio M. Neto
  • Jaime Ramos
  • Jason Newton
  • Stuart Bearhop
Behavioral ecology – original research


Amongst migratory species, it is common to find individuals from different populations or geographical origins sharing staging or wintering areas. Given their differing life histories, ecological theory would predict that the different groups of individuals should exhibit some level of niche segregation. This has rarely been investigated because of the difficulty in assigning migrating individuals to breeding areas. Here, we start by documenting a broad geographical gradient of hydrogen isotopes (δ 2H) in robin Erithacus rubecula feathers across Europe. We then use δ 2H, as well as wing-tip shape, as surrogates for broad migratory origin of birds wintering in Iberia, to investigate the ecological segregation of populations. Wintering robins of different sexes, ages and body sizes are known to segregate between habitats in Iberia. This has been attributed to the despotic exclusion of inferior competitors from the best patches by dominant individuals. We find no segregation between habitats in relation to δ 2H in feathers, or to wing-tip shape, which suggests that no major asymmetries in competitive ability exist between migrant robins of different origins. Trophic level (inferred from nitrogen isotopes in blood) correlated both with δ 2H in feathers and with wing-tip shape, showing that individuals from different geographic origins display a degree of ecological segregation in shared winter quarters. Isotopic mixing models indicate that wintering birds originating from more northerly populations consume more invertebrates. Our multi-scale study suggests that trophic-niche segregation may result from specializations (arising in the population-specific breeding areas) that are transported by the migrants into the shared wintering grounds.


Seasonal matching Ecological segregation Erithacus rubecula Migration Stable isotopes 



Many people provided feather samples, particularly L. Demongin and associated French ringers, J. Arizaga and ringers from Txingudi, V. Bulyuk, T. Valkenburg, P. Tenreiro, S. Marques, F. Sabino, R. Brito, A. C. Pereira, M. Araújo, F. Barros and H. Cardoso. Falsterbo Bird Station and its staff helped with sampling (carried out under license number M64-05). H. Alonso helped with fieldwork and Thomas Bodey in the lab. J. Robalo, V. Almada and S. Chenu provided help for molecular sexing. Two anonymous reviewers made useful comments on earlier versions of the manuscript. Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia-Portugal provided grants SFRH/BD/30724/2006, IF/00502/2013/CP1186/CT0003, and UID/MAR/04292/2013 granted to MARE, as well as SFRH/BPD/40667/2007 (to JMN). Isotope ratio measurements were possible thanks to a Natural Environment Research Council LSMSF grant (EK106-01/07). To ICNF and Parque Natural da Arrábida for permission to carry out this research and to Companhia das Lezírias (particularly Eng. R. Alves) for allowing access to Charneca. All applicable institutional and/or national guidelines for the care and use of animals were followed.

Author contribution statement

PC, ARC conceived and designed the experiments; PC, ARC, JMN, JN performed the experiments; PC, ARC, JPG analysed the data; and PC, ARC, JR, SB wrote the manuscript.

Supplementary material

442_2016_3725_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (164 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 164 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.MARE, Marine and Environmental Sciences CentreISPA-Instituto UniversitárioLisbonPortugal
  2. 2.MARE, Marine and Environmental Sciences Centre, Department of Life SciencesUniversity of CoimbraCoimbraPortugal
  3. 3.CESAM and Departamento de Biologia AnimalFaculdade de Ciências da Universidade de LisboaLisbonPortugal
  4. 4.CIBIO/UP, Centro de Investigação em Biodiversidade e Recursos GenéticosUniversidade do PortoPortoPortugal
  5. 5.Molecular Ecology and Evolution Lab, MEMEG, Department of BiologyUniversity of LundLundSweden
  6. 6.NERC Life Sciences Mass Spectrometry FacilitySUERCGlasgowUK
  7. 7.Centre for Ecology and ConservationUniversity of ExeterExeterUK

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