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Geographic origin of migratory birds based on stable isotope analysis: the case of the greylag goose (Anser anser) wintering in Camargue, southern France

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Proper delineation of flyways is a prerequisite for adequate management of migratory birds. The implementation of coordinated international management for greylag goose (Anser anser) is currently underway in Europe for the north-west/south-west (NW/SW) population. Some uncertainty remained as to whether greylags wintering in Camargue, Southern France, belonged to this population and bred in Norway, Sweden and Finland, or rather originated from the Central European population, especially since most neck collar observations were of birds ringed in the Czech Republic. Stable hydrogen isotope (δ2H) analyses of feathers from 147 individuals hunted or trapped during winter in Camargue provide some insight into this question and suggest north-central Europe as a more likely area of origin. This indicates that greylags wintering along the Mediterranean coast may be largely separate from the birds of the NW/SW European population breeding in Fennoscandia, although some individuals may also come from the Polish or German regions of the NW/SW flyway, since the combined ringing and stable isotope analyses suggest these birds are mostly breeding and moulting in an isotopic area consistent with the Czech Republic, Poland and northern Germany. Earlier studies show birds wintering in other French regions rather originate from Sweden and Norway. These results should be considered for the management plan currently being developed for greylag goose in Europe. More generally, they question whether birds from two distinct populations/flyways should be applied similar or potentially different management plans within a given country.

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We would first like to thank the Camargue hunters, especially those from the Tour du Valat hunting group, for providing the greylag feathers. We also thank the Camargue ornithologists who have provided their resightings of neck-collared birds, as well as the Centre de Recherches sur la Biologie des Populations d’Oiseaux, Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle, especially Olivier Dehorter and all the ringers in Central Europe who contributed to this dataset, for the ring recovery data. The neck collar observation data for the Camargue were kindly provided by Lisenka de Vries for We also greatly appreciated the valuable information provided by Ingolf Todte, Tomasz Mokwa and Łukasz Ławicki. Tony Fox, Richard Inger, Ruedi Nager, Christian Gortázar and an anonymous referee provided valuable comments on an earlier version of the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Matthieu Guillemain.

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Guillemain, M., Bacon, L., Kardynal, K.J. et al. Geographic origin of migratory birds based on stable isotope analysis: the case of the greylag goose (Anser anser) wintering in Camargue, southern France. Eur J Wildl Res 65, 67 (2019).

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