Journal of Ornithology

, Volume 150, Issue 1, pp 61–73 | Cite as

A flyway perspective on food resource abundance in a long-distance migrant, the Eurasian teal (Anas crecca)

  • Céline ArzelEmail author
  • Johan Elmberg
  • Matthieu Guillemain
  • Michel Lepley
  • Fabrice Bosca
  • Pierre Legagneux
  • Jean-Baptiste Nogues
Original Article


Two frequent assumptions about the evolution of long-distance migration in birds are that they travel long distances annually to reach food-rich areas for breeding, and that they time their migratory journey to be at staging sites when the latter provide the best feeding conditions. These assumptions have rarely been properly tested, and there is no study in which a species’ major food types have been measured by standardized methods throughout a flyway and over a large part of the year. We here present such data for Eurasian teal (Anas crecca), converted to a common energetic currency, and collected at wintering, spring staging and breeding sites. Teal did not time migration to maximize local food abundance; most birds left wintering and spring staging sites before a sharp increase in invertebrate food abundance occurred. On the other hand, hatching of ducklings coincided with a peak in invertebrate food abundance on boreal breeding lakes. Mean overall food abundance (invertebrates and seeds combined) did not differ between wintering sites in southern France and breeding sites in northern Sweden at the time of breeding. Our results are inconsistent with the hypothesis that long-distance migration in dabbling ducks has evolved because adult birds gain an immediate pay-off in increased food abundance by flying north in spring. However, our data confirm a selective advantage for breeding at higher latitudes, because hatching of ducklings may coincide with a peak in invertebrate emergence and because longer days may increase the duration of efficient foraging.


Flyway Food resource abundance Calorific density Dabbling ducks 



We are deeply grateful to Franz Bairlein, Preben Clausen, Bob Clark and an anonymous referee for improving the smanuscript. We sincerely thank all those who helped in sampling and sorting invertebrates and seeds in France and Sweden, especially Per Wedholm, Johan Nilsson, Wiebke Neumann, Eric Andersson, and Åke Nordström at the Department of Animal Ecology at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences in Umeå. The calorific measurements of seeds were done at the C.E.P.E. (Strasbourg) with the help from Jean-Patrick Robin. Pr. Narcisse Giani and Pr. Régis Céréghino at Paul Sabatier University (Toulouse) provided helpful information about invertebrates. We particularly thank Thierry Lecomte for their help in Normandy and Raoul Legay for letting us work on his land. This work was supported by grants V-124-01 and V-98-04 from the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency to Johan Elmberg, and by an ONCFS PhD Grant to Céline Arzel.


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Copyright information

© Dt. Ornithologen-Gesellschaft e.V. 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Céline Arzel
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
    Email author
  • Johan Elmberg
    • 2
  • Matthieu Guillemain
    • 1
  • Michel Lepley
    • 1
  • Fabrice Bosca
    • 1
    • 2
  • Pierre Legagneux
    • 4
  • Jean-Baptiste Nogues
    • 5
  1. 1.Office National de la Chasse et de la Faune Sauvage, CNERA Avifaune Migratrice, La Tour du Valat, Le SambucArlesFrance
  2. 2.Department of Mathematics and Natural SciencesKristianstad UniversityKristianstadSweden
  3. 3.Laboratoire d’Ecologie des HydrosystèmesUniversité Paul SabatierToulouseFrance
  4. 4.CEBC, CNRS UPR 1934 Villiers-en-BoisBeauvoir sur NiortFrance
  5. 5.Les Amis des Marais du VigueiratArlesFrance

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