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Differential migration and body condition in Northern Wheatears (Oenanthe oenanthe) at a Mediterranean spring stopover site

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Abstract

In many species of migratory birds, individuals of different populations, sexes and age classes migrate at different times and manage their energy reserves according to their specific migratory strategies. In this study, we analyzed the migratory patterns related to geographic provenance, sex and age in the Northern Wheatear Oenanthe oenanthe, a long-distance migratory passerine, during one spring season on the island of Ventotene (Italy), a Mediterranean stopover site. Individuals of different sex and age did not differ significantly in their average date of passage, but birds with longer and more pointed wings passed through later in the season than birds with shorter wings. Morphometric measurements combined with isotopic analysis revealed that late-arriving birds probably belonged to more distant breeding populations and this later date of passage probably mirrors the delayed arrival observed at their northern breeding grounds. Adult birds arrived in better condition than second-year birds, possibly as a result of better energy management. Birds passing through later in the season were also in better condition, which might be explained by their wing morphology favoring endurance flights and thus improving energetic efficiency when crossing the Mediterranean. Birds which migrate longer distances might also carry larger fuel loads to safely complete their journey. This intra-specific study shows that the birds’ organization of their migration schedule is population-specific in correspondence to the temporal requirements which depend on the different environmental conditions on the breeding grounds.

Zusammenfassung

Differentielles Zugverhalten und Körperkondition beim Steinschmätzer ( Oenanthe oenanthe ) an einen Rastplatz im Mittelmeer im Frühjahr

Bei vielen Zugvögeln ziehen verschiedene Populationen, Männchen und Weibchen und/oder verschiedene Altersgruppen zu verschiedenen Zeiten und gestalten ihre Energiereserven entsprechend ihrer spezifischen Zugstrategie. Wir betrachteten die Zugmuster des Steinschmätzer Oenanthe oenanthe, eines Langstreckenziehers, in Beziehung zur Lage des Brutgebietes, zu Geschlecht und Alter während einer Frühjahrssaison auf der italienischen Mittelmeerinsel Ventotene. Die Geschlechter und Altersgruppen unterschieden sich nicht in ihren mittleren Durchzugszeiten, doch zogen Vögel mit längeren und spitzeren Flügeln signifikant später durch als Vögel mit kürzeren Flügeln. Morphometrische Messungen in Kombination mit Isotopenanalysen zeigen, dass die spät durchziehenden Vögel wahrscheinlich zu weiter entfernten Brutpopulationen gehörten, korrespondierend zu deren späterer Ankunft in den nördlichen Brutgebieten. Altvögel kamen auf Ventotene in besserer Kondition an als Vögel in ihrem zweiten Kalenderjahr, möglicherweise eine Folge davon, dass Altvögel mit ihrer Energie besser haushalten. Auch waren später in der Saison durchziehende Vögel in besserer Kondition. Dies könnte eine Folge ihrer Flügelmorphologie sein, die lange Flüge begünstigt und so die Energiebilanz beim Flug über das Mittelmeer verbessert. Auch könnten die weiter ziehenden Vögel mehr Energiereserven für erfolgreichen Zug an sich benötigen. Diese intra-spezifische Studie zeigt, dass der Zugablauf populationsspezifisch ist, korrespondierend mit den zeitlichen Anforderungen, die von den unterschiedlichen Umweltbedingungen im Brutgebiet bestimmt sind.

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Acknowledgments

The study was supported by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft DFG (Ba 815/16) and by the Progetto SIM, financed by the Riserva Naturale Statale Isole di Ventotene e Santo Stefano. We are grateful to the Ventotene ringing team for help in the field. Karin Sörgel performed the isotopic analysis. We thank Nigel Richards and two anonymous reviewers for comments on an earlier version of the manuscript. The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest. Results from the ‘‘Progetto Piccole Isole’’ ISPRA: paper n. 52.

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Correspondence to Ivan Maggini.

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Communicated by A. Hedenström.

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Maggini, I., Spina, F., Voigt, C.C. et al. Differential migration and body condition in Northern Wheatears (Oenanthe oenanthe) at a Mediterranean spring stopover site. J Ornithol 154, 321–328 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10336-012-0896-1

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