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Emmenegger, T., S. Hahn & S. Bauer (2014)

Individual migration timing of common nightingales is tuned with vegetation and prey phenology at breeding sites.

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BMC Ecology 14:9

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tamara.emmenegger@vogelwarte.ch

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Abstract

Background: The timing of migration substantially influences individual fitness. To match peak requirements with peak resource availability, we hypothesized that individual migrants schedule spring migration in close relation to seasonal changes in environmental conditions along the route and particularly, at the breeding destination. To test this hypothesis, we investigated the timing of spring migration in male common nightingales Luscinia megarhynchos, a small Palearctic-African long-distance migrant, by linking spring migration timing to the phenology of local environmental conditions at non-breeding migratory stopover and breeding sites. In particular, we related individual migration decisions (i.e. departure and arrival) of nine males to site-specific vegetation phenology (based on remotely sensed vegetation index) and a proxy of food availability (based on insects’ thermal requirements).
Results: We found weak relation of departures from non-breeding and no relation of stopover timing with local phenology. However, our results showed that individuals, which departed early from their non-breeding sites and arrived early at the breeding site closely matched spring green-up there. Early arrival at the breeding site meant also a close match with peak food availability for adults and in a time-lagged manner, for offspring.
Conclusion: Our findings suggest that male nightingale used cues other than local phenology for their departure decisions from non-breeding grounds and that there is some evidence for equalizing late departures during the course of migration.