Bird migration
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    Which environmental factors affect the nest site choice of Northern wheatears in the Alps?

    The Northern wheatear (Oenanthe oenanthe) is an adaptable species inhabiting a broad range of habitats including deserts, costal marshes and tundra. Especially individuals from populations at the arctic circle need this tolerance as they might have to cope with all these different habitats during their annual cycle along their impressive migratory route.

    Northern wheatear population in the Alps, in contrast, are among the populations with the shortest migratory distance between the breeding range and the wintering grounds. Yet, this population has restricted habitat requirement. In Switzerland Northern wheatears only occur on alpine pastures above the tree line. What exactly is limiting them to this habitat? And how much is the habitat selection influenced by the large between–year variation in alpine climatic conditions. Typically, temperature, precipitation and snow cover can be very unpredictable at this altitude between years.

    The aim of this study is to determine the most influential environmental factors affecting nest site choice of alpine Northern wheatears. The relevance of different factors can be further investigated by comparing nest site selection across years. 

    Contact and further information

    Swiss Ornithological Institute
    Dr. Christoph Meier
    Seerose 1
    CH-6204 Sempach
    Tel: +41 41 462 99 23