© Marcel Burkhardt
Hahn, S., V. Amrhein, P. Zehtindijev & F. Liechti (2013)
Strong migratory connectivity and seasonally shifting isotopic niches in geographically separated populations of a long-distance migrating songbird.
Oecologia 173 (4): 1217–25
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 haracterised 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.
Keywords: Ecological niche, Annual cycle Non-breeding period, Geolocator, Stable isotopes