Journal of Ornithology

, Volume 158, Issue 2, pp 365–378 | Cite as

Range-wide patterns of population differentiation of Eurasian Black Terns (Chlidonias niger niger) related to use of discrete post-nuptial staging sites

  • Patricia SzczysEmail author
  • Karl A. Lamothe
  • Alexey Druzyaka
  • Martin J. M. Poot
  • Valeri Siokhin
  • Jan van der Winden
Original Article


The Eurasian Black Tern, Chlidonias niger niger, nests in marshes continuously distributed across Eurasia, but migration routes, staging sites, and non-breeding distributions are not well understood. In western Europe some populations have declined substantially over several decades (>90%), thus a more complete understanding of breeding site connectivity and migratory routes is needed. We collected tissue samples of terns in breeding colonies in the Netherlands, Latvia, southern Ukraine, eastern Siberian Russia, and from individuals at one important post-nuptial staging site in The Netherlands. Microsatellite data suggest significant differentiation among all breeding sites and the pattern is supported by differences among sites in most morphological measures. Conversely, mitochondrial DNA suggests similarity and population expansion especially from the region around Ukraine. We assigned 70% of the birds sampled on the staging site to the Netherlands/Latvia breeding population, but none to the southern Ukrainian or eastern Russian population. Our data indicated limited contact at post-nuptial staging sites contribute to genetic structure among breeding sites for this species. Our study demonstrates the utility of genetic data in migration studies to delineate migratory flyways and highlight the importance of specific staging sites to specific breeding subpopulations.


Black Tern Chlidonias niger Eurasia Microsatellite Morphology mtDNA Population structure 


Verbreitungsgebietweite Muster der Populationsdifferenzierung bei der Trauerseeschwalbe Chlidonias niger niger im Zusammenhang mit der Nutzung definierter nachbrutzeitlicher Sammelplätze

Die Trauerseeschwalbe brütet in Sumpfgebieten und ist über ganz Eurasien verbreitet; über ihre Zugwege, Sammelplätze und über ihre Verbreitung außerhalb der Brutzeit ist dagegen wenig bekannt. In Westeuropa haben manche Populationen über mehrere Jahrzehnte hinweg merklich (>90%) abgenommen, daher besteht Bedarf an umfassenderen Kenntnissen über Brutplatzkonnektivität und Zugstrecken. Wir sammelten Gewebeproben von Seeschwalben aus Brutkolonien in den Niederlanden, Lettland, der Südukraine, aus dem ostsibirischen Russland und von Individuen an einem bedeutenden nachbrutzeitlichen Sammelplatz in den Niederlanden. Daten auf der Basis von Mikrosatelliten-DNA weisen auf eine signifikante Differenzierung zwischen allen Brutgebieten hin, und dieses Muster wird von morphometrischen Unterschieden bestätigt. Umgekehrt spricht die mitochondriale DNA für Ähnlichkeit und eine Populationsexpansion speziell aus der Region um die Ukraine. Wir konnten 70% der am Sammelplatz beprobten Vögel der niederländischen/lettischen Brutpopulation zuordnen, dagegen keine den Populationen der Südukraine oder Ostrusslands. Unsere Daten deuten darauf hin, dass eingeschränkter Kontakt an den nachbrutzeitlichen Sammelplätzen bei dieser Art zur genetischen Struktur zwischen den Brutgebieten beiträgt. Unsere Studie verdeutlicht die Nützlichkeit genetischer Daten für Zuguntersuchungen, um Zugwege aufzuzeigen und die Bedeutung spezifischer Sammelplätze für spezifische Sub-Brutpopulationen zu unterstreichen.



We thank Phillip Elliott and Matthew Graham and two anonymous reviewers whose evaluation improved the manuscript. Funding was supplied by CSU-AAUP Research Grants and a Nisbet Research Grant from The Waterbird Society to P. Szczys, a Jean H. Thoreson ECSU-AAUP Scholarship to K.A. Lamothe, and The Rufford Foundation, Wetlands International and the Erasmus MC, Rotterdam to J. van der Winden. Data collection in Siberia, Russia was supported by the Russian Science Foundation Grant N 14-14-00603. Marcis Leja, Janis Viksne, Petro Gorlov, Josif Chernichko, Vladimir Shilo, and Jean-Marc Paillisson are thanked for field support of this project. This study complied with the current laws of the relevant countries

Supplementary material

10336_2016_1408_MOESM1_ESM.docx (213 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 213 kb)


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Copyright information

© Dt. Ornithologen-Gesellschaft e.V. 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Eastern Connecticut State UniversityWillimanticUSA
  2. 2.University of TorontoTorontoCanada
  3. 3.Institute of Systematic and Ecology of Animals, SB RASNovosibirskRussia
  4. 4.Novosibirsk State UniversityNovosibirskRussia
  5. 5.Statistics NetherlandsThe HagueThe Netherlands
  6. 6.MelitopolUkraine
  7. 7.Ecology, Research and ConsultancyUtrechtThe Netherlands

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