Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 63, Issue 12, pp 1705–1715 | Cite as

Post-breeding migration in male great bustards: low tolerance of the heaviest Palaearctic bird to summer heat

  • Juan C. Alonso
  • Carlos Palacín
  • Javier A. Alonso
  • Carlos A. Martín
Original Paper


Radio tracking of 142 males captured at 44 leks in Spain showed that partial migration of great bustard males in summer is a widespread behaviour in many Iberian populations, in contrast to their previously assumed sedentariness. A variable number of males migrated immediately after mating to summering areas with lower temperatures and human population densities and more trees and rainfall levels than the breeding sites. Birds selected there fields with trees and sunflower crops which provided shade during the hottest midday hours and protective cover against predators. Males breeding in areas with higher July temperatures had a higher tendency to migrate, and males from hotter, southern regions migrated longer distances than those from milder, northern regions and showed a preferred northward direction. These results confirmed various predictions from the weather sensitivity hypothesis, suggesting that summer migration of great bustard males represents primarily an adaptation to escape the summer heat of most breeding areas in central and southern Iberia. The hypothesis that males migrated to benefit from higher food availability at the summering areas could not be rejected by our results. Finally, migrating males also gained more tranquillity during the post-breeding moult due to the lower human population density at the summering areas. Summer migration of Iberian great bustard males may thus be interpreted as a form of behavioural thermoregulation which has not been described for other Palaearctic populations of this species or for other bird species breeding in temperate latitudes.


Partial migration Summer migration Weather sensitivity hypothesis Great bustard Otis tarda 


  1. Alonso JC, Alonso JA (1990) Parámetros demográficos, selección de hábitat y distribución de la Avutarda en tres regiones españolas. ICONA, MadridGoogle Scholar
  2. Alonso JC, Alonso JA, Martín E, Morales MB (1995) Range and patterns of great bustard movements at Villafafila, NW Spain. Ardeola 42:69–76Google Scholar
  3. Alonso JC, Alonso JA, Martín E, Morales MB (1998) Proximate and ultimate causes of natal dispersal in the great bustard. Behav Ecol 9:243–252CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Alonso JC, Morales MB, Alonso JA (2000) Partial migration, and lek and nesting area fidelity in female great bustards. Condor 102:127–136CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Alonso JA, Martín CA, Alonso JC, Morales MB, Lane SJ (2001) Seasonal movements of male great bustards in central Spain. J Field Ornithol 72:504–508Google Scholar
  6. Alonso JC, Martín CA, Alonso JA, Lieckfeldt D, Magaña M, Palacín C, Pitra C (2009) Genetic diversity of the great bustard in Iberia and Morocco: risks from current population fragmentation. Conservation Genetics 10:379–390CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Aublet J-F, Festa-Bianchet M, Bergero D, Bassano B (2009) Temperature constraints on foraging behaviour of male Alpine ibex (Capra ibex) in summer. Oecologia 159:237–247PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Austin GT (1976) Behavioral adaptations of the verdin to the desert. Auk 93:245–262Google Scholar
  9. Austin GT (1978) Daily time budget of the postnesting verdin. Auk 95:247–251Google Scholar
  10. Berthold P (1984) The control of partial bird migration in birds: a review. Ring 10:253–265Google Scholar
  11. Berthold P (1996) Control of bird migration. Chapman and Hall, LondonGoogle Scholar
  12. Berthold P (1999) A comprehensive theory for the evolution, control and adaptability of avian migration. Ostrich 70:1–12Google Scholar
  13. Berthold P (2001) Bird migration. A general survey, 2nd edn. Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  14. Berthold P, Gwinner E, Sonnenschein E (2003) Avian migration. Springer, BerlinGoogle Scholar
  15. Blanckenhorn WU (2000) The evolution of body size: what keeps organisms small? Quart Rev Biol 75:385–407PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Block B (1996) Wiederfunde von in Buckow ausgewilderten Großtrappen (Otis t. tarda L., 1758). Nat.schutz Landsch.pfl Brandenburg 1(2):76–79Google Scholar
  17. Blondel J, Aronson J (1999) Biology and wildlife of the Mediterranean region. Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  18. Bustamante J (2003) Cartografía predictiva de las variables climáticas: comparación de distintos modelos de interpolación de la temperatura en España peninsular. Graellsia 59:359–376Google Scholar
  19. Cade BS, Hoffman RW (1993) Differential migration of blue grouse in Colorado. Auk 110:70–77Google Scholar
  20. Calder WA, King JR (1974) Thermal and caloric relations of birds. In: Farner DS, King JR (eds) Avian biology. Academic, New York, pp 260–413Google Scholar
  21. Combreau O, Smith TR (1997) Summer habitat selection by houbara bustards introduced in central Saudi Arabia. J Arid Environ 36:149–160CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Conradt L, Clutton-Borck TH, Guinness FE (2000) Sex differences in weather sensitivity can cause habitat segregation: red deer as an example. Anim Behav 59:1049–1060PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Cristol DA, Baker MB, Carbone C (1999) Differential migration revisited: latitudinal segregation by age and sex class. In: Nolan V Jr, Ketterson ED, Thompson CF (eds) Current ornithology, vol 15. Plenum, New York, pp 33–88Google Scholar
  24. Dawson WR (1984) Physiological studies of desert birds: present and future considerations. J Arid Environ 7:133–155Google Scholar
  25. Dawson WR, O’Connor TP (1995) Energetic features of avian thermoregulatory responses. In: Carey C (ed) Avian energetics and nutritional ecology. Chapman and Hall, New York, pp 85–124Google Scholar
  26. De Castro M, Martín-Vide J, Alonso S (2005) El clima de España: pasado, presente y escenarios de clima para el siglo XXI. In: Oficina Española de Cambio Climático (ed) Impactos del Cambio Climático para España. Ministerio de Medio Ambiente, Madrid, pp 1–64Google Scholar
  27. Dean WRJ, Miltonw SJ, Jeltsch F (1999) Large trees, fertile islands, and birds in arid savannah. J Arid Environ 41:61–78CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Del Hoyo J, Elliot A, Sargatal J (1996) Handbook of the birds of the world, vol 3. Lynx, BarcelonaGoogle Scholar
  29. Dornbusch M (1981) Bestand, Bestandsförderung und Wanderungen der Großtrappe (Otis tarda). Naturschutzarb. Berlin–Brandenburg 17:22–24Google Scholar
  30. Dussault C, Ouellet JP, Courtois R, Huot J, Breton L, Larochelle J (2004) Behavioural responses of moose to thermal conditions in the boreal forest. Ecoscience 11:321–328Google Scholar
  31. Eastman JR (2000) Idrisi for Windows. User’s guide, version 32. Clark Laboratories, Clark University, Worcester, MAGoogle Scholar
  32. Farago S (1990) The effect of heavy winters on bustard (Otis tarda) populations in Hungary. Alatt Közl 76:51–62Google Scholar
  33. García J (2000) Dispersión premigratoria del cernícalo primilla Falco naumanni en España. Ardeola 47:197–202Google Scholar
  34. García EL, Morales MB, De Juana E, Suárez F (2004) Does Spanish little bustards migrate? New data on long distance movements. In: Centre Tecnologic Forestal de Catalunya (ed) International Symposium on Ecology and Conservation of Steppe-land Birds, Lleida, p 79Google Scholar
  35. Gauthreaux SA (1982) The ecology and evolution of avian migration systems. In: Farner DS, King JR, Parkes KC (eds) Avian biology, vol 6. Academic, New York, pp 93–168Google Scholar
  36. Glutz UN, Bauer KM, Bezzel E (1973) Handbuch der Vögel Mitteleuropas vol 5. Akademische Verlagsgesellschaft, Frankfurt a.MGoogle Scholar
  37. Hellmich J (1991) La avutarda en Extremadura. Alytes 2:1–167Google Scholar
  38. Herzog P, Keppie DM (1980) Migration in a local population of spruce grouse. Condor 82:366–372CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Hidalgo SJ, Carranza J (1990) Ecología y comportamiento de la avutarda (Otis tarda). Universidad de Extremadura, CáceresGoogle Scholar
  40. Huntley B, Green RE, Collingham YC, Willis SG (2007) A climatic atlas of European breeding birds. Lynx Edicions, BarcelonaGoogle Scholar
  41. Ivlev VS (1961) Experimental ecology of the feeding of finches. Yale University Press, New HavenGoogle Scholar
  42. Jackes AD (1973) The use of wintering ground by red deer in Ross-shire, Scotland. M.Phil. thesis, University of Edinbourgh, EdinbourghGoogle Scholar
  43. Jehl JR (1990) Aspects of the molt migration. In: Gwinner E (ed) Bird migration: physiology and ecophysiology. Springer, Berlin, pp 102–116Google Scholar
  44. Kaitala A, Kaitala V, Lundberg P (1993) A theory of partial bird migration. Am Nat 142:59–81CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Ketterson ED, Nolan V (1983) The evolution of differential bird migration. In: Johnston RF (ed) Current ornithology, vol 1. Plenum, New York, pp 357–402Google Scholar
  46. Koenig WD, Vuren DV, Hooge PN (1996) Detectability, philopatry and the distribution of dispersal distances in vertebrates. Trends Ecol Evol 11:514–517CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Kovach Computing Services (2004) Oriana software, version 2.0. Anglesey, Wales.
  48. Lane SJ, Alonso JC, Alonso JA, Naveso MA (1999) Seasonal changes in diet and diet selection of great bustards (Otis t. tarda) in north-west Spain. J Zool 247:201–214CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Lane SJ, Alonso JC, Martín CA (2001) Habitat preferences of great bustard Otis tarda flocks in the arable steppes of central Spain: are potentially suitable areas unoccupied? J Appl Ecol 38:193–203CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Lundberg P (1987) Partial bird migration and evolutionary stable strategies. J Theor Biol 125:351–360CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Lundberg P (1988) The evolution of partial migration in birds. TREE 3:172–175Google Scholar
  52. Magaña M (2007) Comportamiento reproductivo de la Avutarda Común. PhD thesis, Universidad Complutense, MadridGoogle Scholar
  53. Maloney SK, Moss G, Cartmell T, Mitchell D (2005) Alteration in diel activity patterns as a thermoregulatory strategy in black wildebeest (Connochaetes gnou). J Comp Physiol A 191:1055–1064CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Margalef R (1974) Ecología. Omega, BarcelonaGoogle Scholar
  55. Martínez C (1991) Patterns of distribution and habitat selection of a great bustard (Otis tarda) population in northwestern Spain. Ardeola 38:137–147Google Scholar
  56. Morales MB, Martín CA (2002) Great bustard. In: BWP Update 4. Oxford University Press, Oxford, pp 217–232Google Scholar
  57. Morales MB, Alonso JC, Alonso JA, Martin E (2000) Migration patterns of great bustard males. Auk 117:493–498CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Newton I (2008) The migration ecology of birds. Academic, LondonGoogle Scholar
  59. Olea PP (2001) Postfledging dispersal in the endangered lesser kestrel Falco naumanni. Bird Study 48:110–115CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Palacín C (2007) Comportamiento migratorio de la Avutarda Común en la Península Ibérica. PhD thesis, Universidad Complutense, MadridGoogle Scholar
  61. Pitra C, Lieckfeldt D, Alonso JC (2000) Population subdivision in European great bustards inferred from mitochondrial and nuclear DNA sequence variation. Mol Ecol 9:1165–1170PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Rahmani AR, Manakadan R (1986) Movement and flock composition of the great Indian bustard Ardeotis nigriceps (Vigors) at Nanaj, Solapur District, Maharashtra, India. J Bombay Nat Hist Soc 83:17–31Google Scholar
  63. Rubio JL, Carrascal LM (1994) Habitat selection and conservation o fan endemic Spanish lizard Algyroides marchi (Reptilia, Lacertidae). Biol Conserv 70:245–250CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Ruckstuhl KE, Clutton-Brock TH (2005) Sexual segregation and the ecology of the two sexes. In: Ruckstuhl KE, Neuhaus P (eds) Sexual segregation in vertebrates. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp 3–7Google Scholar
  65. Ruckstuhl KE, Neuhaus P (2000) Sexual segregation in ungulates: a new approach. Behaviour 137:361–377CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Schroeder MA (1985) Behavioural differences of female spruce grouse undertaking short and long migrations. Condor 87:281–286CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Schroeder MA, Braun CE (1993) Partial migration in a population of greater prairie chickens in northeastern Colorado. Auk 110:21–28Google Scholar
  68. Searcy WA (1980) Optimum body sizes at different temperatures: an energetic explanation of Bergmann’s rule. J Theor Biol 83:579–593PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Silva JP (2009) Sisao. Seguimento de aves via satélite. In: Accessed 4 Feb 2009
  70. Silva JP, Faria N, Catry T (2007) Summer habitat selection and abundance of the threatened little bustard in Iberian agricultural landscapes. Biol Conserv 139:186–194CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. StatSoft (2001) STATISTICA version 6. Tulsa, USAGoogle Scholar
  72. Streich WJ, Litzbarski H, Ludwig B, Ludwig S (2006) What triggers facultative winter migration of great bustard (Otis tarda) in Central Europe? Eur J Wildlife Res 52:48–53CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. Taylor CR, Dmi’el R, Fedak M, Schmidt-Nielsen K (1971) Energetic cost of running and heat balance in a large bird, the rhea. Am J Physiol 221:597–601PubMedGoogle Scholar
  74. Terrill SB, Able KP (1988) Bird migration terminology. Auk 105:205–206Google Scholar
  75. Tieleman BI (2005) Physiological, behavioral, and life history adaptations of larks along an aridity gradient: a review. In: Bota G, Morales MB, Mañosa S, Camprodon J (eds) Ecology and conservation of steppe-land birds. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona, pp 49–67Google Scholar
  76. Tieleman BI, Williams JB (1999) The role of hyperthermia in the water economy of desert birds. Physiol Biochem Zool 72:87–100PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  77. Urban EK, Fry CH, Keith S (1986) The birds of Africa, vol 2. Academic, London, UKGoogle Scholar
  78. Waldorp LJ, Grasman RP, Huizenga HM (2006) Goodness-of-fit and confidence intervals of approximate models. J Math Psychol 50:203–213CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  79. Wallace C, Chapman JM, Clayton DG (2006) Improved power offered by a score test for linkage disequilibrium mapping of quantitative-trait loci by selective genotyping. Am J Hum Genet 78:498–504PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  80. Walsberg GE, King JR (1978) The relationship of the external surface area of birds to skin surface area and body mass. J Exp Biol 76:185–189Google Scholar
  81. Watzke H (2007) Results from satellite telemetry of great bustards in the Saratov region of Russia. Bustard Stud 6:83–98Google Scholar
  82. Watzke H, Litzbarski H, Oparina HS, Oparin ML (2001) Der Zug von Grosstrappen Otis tarda aus der Region Saratov (Russland)-erste Ergebnisse der Satellitentelemetrie im Rahmen eines Schutzprojektes. Vogelwelt 122:89–94Google Scholar
  83. Williams JB, Tieleman BI (2001) Physiological ecology and behavior of desert birds. In: Nolan V Jr (ed) Current ornithology, vol 16. Kluwer, New York, pp 299–353Google Scholar
  84. Winer BJ, Brown DR, Michels KM (1962) Statistical principles in experimental design. McGraw-Hill, New YorkCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  85. Wolf BO, Walsberg GE (1996) Thermal effects of radiation and wind on a small bird and implications for microsite selection. Ecology 77:2228–2236CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  86. Wolf BO, Wooden DM, Walsberg GE (1996) The use of thermal refugia by two small desert birds. Condor 98:424–428CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  87. Young TP, Isbell SA (1991) Sex-differences in giraffe feeding ecology—energetic and social constraints. Ethology 87:79–89CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Juan C. Alonso
    • 1
  • Carlos Palacín
    • 1
  • Javier A. Alonso
    • 2
  • Carlos A. Martín
    • 1
    • 3
  1. 1.Departamento de Ecología EvolutivaMuseo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales CSICMadridSpain
  2. 2.Departamento de Zoología y Antropología Física, Facultad de BiologíaUniversidad ComplutenseMadridSpain
  3. 3.Instituto de Investigación en Recursos Cinegéticos (CSIC-UCLM-JCCM)Ciudad RealSpain

Personalised recommendations