, Volume 173, Issue 4, pp 1217–1225 | Cite as

Strong migratory connectivity and seasonally shifting isotopic niches in geographically separated populations of a long-distance migrating songbird

  • Steffen HahnEmail author
  • Valentin Amrhein
  • Pavel Zehtindijev
  • Felix Liechti
Behavioral ecology - Original research


Whether migratory animals use similar resources during continental-scale movements that characterize their annual cycles is highly relevant to both individual performances and population dynamics. Direct knowledge of the locations and resources used by migrants during non-breeding is generally scarce. Our goal was to estimate migratory connectivity of a small Palaearctic long-distance migrant, the common nightingale Luscinia megarhynchos, and to compare resources used in non-breeding areas with resources used at the breeding grounds. We tracked individuals of three geographically separated populations and characterised their stable isotope niches during breeding and non-breeding over 2 years. Individuals spent the non-breeding period in population-specific clusters from west to central Africa, indicating strong migratory connectivity at the population level. Irrespective of origin, their isotopic niches were surprisingly similar within a particular period, although sites of residence were distant. However, niche characteristics differed markedly between breeding and non-breeding periods, indicating a consistent seasonal isotopic niche shift in the sampled populations. Although nightingales of distinct breeding populations migrated to different non-breeding areas, they chose similar foraging conditions within specific periods. However, nightingales clearly changed resource use between breeding and non-breeding periods, indicating adaptations to changes in food availability.


Ecological niche Annual cycle Non-breeding period Geolocator Stable isotopes 



We are thankful to all field assistants during two field campaigns in France, Italy and Bulgaria, to F. Spina and L. Serra for permissions and field station use in Italy, to S. v. Ballmoos, R. Weber and E. Bächler for geolocator development, L. Röllin for lab facilities, H. Korthals for stable isotope measures and L. Jenni, S. Bauer and two anonymous referees for comments on the manuscript.

Supplementary material

442_2013_2726_MOESM1_ESM.doc (60 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOC 60 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Steffen Hahn
    • 1
    Email author
  • Valentin Amrhein
    • 2
    • 3
  • Pavel Zehtindijev
    • 4
  • Felix Liechti
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Bird MigrationSwiss Ornithological InstituteSempachSwitzerland
  2. 2.Zoological InstituteUniversity of BaselBaselSwitzerland
  3. 3.Research Station Petite Camargue AlsacienneSaint-LouisFrance
  4. 4.Institute of Biodiversity and Ecosystem ResearchBulgarian Academy of SciencesSofiaBulgaria

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