Journal of Ornithology

, Volume 147, Issue 2, pp 385–394 | Cite as

Migratory connectivity and temporal segregation of dunlin (Calidris alpina) in Portugal: evidence from morphology, ringing recoveries and mtDNA

  • Ricardo J. LopesEmail author
  • João C. Marques
  • Liv Wennerberg
Original Article


Migratory connectivity plays an important role in conservation of long-distance migrant birds. Here, we study migratory links of dunlin (Calidris alpina), focusing on a stopover and wintering region (Portugal) where it is known that migration routes of dunlin from a broad geographic range (three subspecies) converge, and populations occur simultaneously or separated in time. We combine three methods (ringing recoveries, morphometrics and molecular genetics) to assess breeding origins and extent of temporal segregation of dunlin assemblages. Ringing recoveries show temporal separation of dunlin from different migration routes. Birds found in Portugal during August and September, migrating via Britain, reveal links to breeding areas in Iceland and Greenland. In October, a clear shift to more eastern migration routes occurs, with most Portuguese winter records from stopover sites along migration routes of populations from northern Scandinavia and Russia. Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) of Portuguese dunlin was compared with breeding populations. Spring and autumn migrants in Portugal corresponded to C. a. schinzii and C. a. arctica populations, while the Portuguese winter population clearly differs by including mtDNA haplotypes of C. a. alpina. For genetically sexed individuals, we found significant differences in morphology (bill and tarsus length) supporting the temporal separation of populations/subspecies revealed by recoveries and mtDNA. Our results give evidence for migratory connectivity of dunlin populations between geographic areas previously not considered connected. They confirm the existence of clear differences in breeding origin between birds in Portugal at different times of year. These results are important in the consideration of future long-term conservation plans.


Animal conservation Bird migration Migratory connectivity Mitochondrial DNA Population genetics 



We would like to thank all that helped in capturing and processing the birds in the field. We also thank the Reserva Natural do Estuário do Tejo (RNET) for allowing us to capture birds in Tagus estuary, the Instituto da Conservação da Natureza (ICN) for the permission to catch birds and collect blood samples in Portugal (permit no. 110) and the Portuguese national ringing centre (ICN-CAN) for the ringing recoveries data. We would like to thank Jaime Ramos for valuable revisions to the manuscript. This research was funded by Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia (FCT; grant PRAXIS XXI/BD/16250/98), N-O Berggrens fund (Lund University) and the National Centre for Biosystematics, Natural History Museum, University of Oslo.


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Copyright information

© Dt. Ornithologen-Gesellschaft e.V. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ricardo J. Lopes
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • João C. Marques
    • 2
  • Liv Wennerberg
    • 3
  1. 1.Research Center in Biodiversity and Genetic ResourcesUniversity of PortoVairaoPortugal
  2. 2.Department of Zoology, Institute of Marine ResearchUniversity of CoimbraCoimbraPortugal
  3. 3.National Centre for Biosystematics, National History MuseumUniversity of OsloOsloNorway

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