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Concept: Flyway


Migrating birds follow innate species-specific migration programs capable of guiding them along complex spatio-temporal routes, which may include several separate staging areas. Indeed, migration routes of common cuckoos Cuculus canorus show little variation between individuals; yet, satellite tracks of 11 experimentally displaced adults revealed an unexpected flexibility in individual navigation responses. The birds compensated for the translocation to unfamiliar areas by travelling toward population-specific staging areas, demonstrating true navigation capabilities. Individual responses varied from travelling toward the first stopover in northern Europe to flying toward the Central-African winter grounds, the latter including several stopovers in unfamiliar areas. Apparently, the cuckoos possess spatial knowledge far beyond their population-specific flyway scale, and make individual decisions likely based on an assessment of perceived gain and cost of alternative route options.

Concepts: Cancer, Bird, Cuckoo, Spaceflight, Bird migration, Common Cuckoo, Cuculus, Flyway


Arctic amplification, the accelerated climate warming in the polar regions, is causing a more rapid advancement of the onset of spring in the Arctic than in temperate regions. Consequently, the arrival of many migratory birds in the Arctic is thought to become increasingly mismatched with the onset of local spring, consequently reducing individual fitness and potentially even population levels. We used a dynamic state variable model to study whether Arctic long-distance migrants can advance their migratory schedules under climate warming scenarios which include Arctic amplification, and whether such an advancement is constrained by fuel accumulation or the ability to anticipate climatic changes. Our model predicts that barnacle geese Branta leucopsis suffer from considerably reduced reproductive success with increasing Arctic amplification through mistimed arrival, when they cannot anticipate a more rapid progress of Arctic spring from their wintering grounds. When geese are able to anticipate a more rapid progress of Arctic spring, they are predicted to advance their spring arrival under Arctic amplification up to 44 days without any reproductive costs in terms of optimal condition or timing of breeding. Negative effects of mistimed arrival on reproduction are predicted to be somewhat mitigated by increasing summer length under warming in the Arctic, as late arriving geese can still breed successfully. We conclude that adaptation to Arctic amplification may rather be constrained by the (un)predictability of changes in the Arctic spring than by the time available for fuel accumulation. Social migrants like geese tend to have a high behavioural plasticity regarding stopover site choice and migration schedule, giving them the potential to adapt to future climate changes on their flyway. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.

Concepts: Climate, Bird, Climate change, Arctic Circle, Branta, Canada Goose, Bird migration, Flyway


Migration is a common strategy used by birds that breed in seasonal environments. The patterns and determinants of migration routes, however, remain poorly understood. Recent empirical analyses have demonstrated that the locations of two North America migration flyways (eastern and western) shift seasonally, reflecting the influence of looped migration strategies. For the eastern but not western flyway, seasonal variation in atmospheric circulation has been identified as an explanation. Here, we test an alternative explanation based on the phenology of ecological productivity, which may be of greater relevance in western North America, where phenology is more broadly dictated by elevation. Migrants in the western flyway selected lower-elevation spring routes that were wetter, greener and more productive, and higher-elevation autumn routes that were less green and less productive, but probably more direct. Migrants in the eastern flyway showed little season variation but maintained associations with maximum regional greenness. Our findings suggest the annual phenology of ecological productivity is associated with en route timing in both flyways, and the spring phenology of ecological productivity contributes to the use of looped strategies in the western flyway. This fine-tuned spatial synchronization may be disrupted when changing climate induces a mismatch between food availability and needs.

Concepts: Earth, United States, Europe, Season, North America, Bird migration, Flyway, Climatology


1.A number of terrestrial bird species that breed in North America cross the Atlantic Ocean during autumn migration when travelling to their non-breeding grounds in the Caribbean or South America. When conducting oceanic crossings, migratory birds tend to associate with mild or supportive winds, whose speed and direction may change under global warming. The implications of these changes for transoceanic migratory bird populations have not been addressed. 2.We used occurrence information from eBird (1950 to 2015) to estimate the geographic location of population centres at a daily temporal resolution across the annual cycle for ten transatlantic migratory bird species. We used this information to estimate the location and timing of autumn migration within the transatlantic flyway. We estimated how prevailing winds are projected to change within the transatlantic flyway during this time using daily wind speed anomalies (1996-2005 and 2091-2100) from 29 Atmosphere-Ocean General Circulation Models implemented under CMIP5. 3.Autumn transatlantic migrants have the potential to encounter strong westerly crosswinds early in their transatlantic journey at intermediate and especially high migration altitudes, strong headwinds at low and intermediate migration altitudes within the Caribbean that increase in strength as the season progresses, and weak tailwinds at intermediate and high migration altitudes east of the Caribbean. The CMIP5 simulations suggest that, during this century, the likelihood of autumn transatlantic migrants encountering strong westerly crosswinds will diminish. 4.As global warming progresses, the need for species to compensate or drift under the influence of strong westerly crosswinds during the initial phase of their autumn transatlantic journey may be diminished. Existing strategies that promote headwind avoidance and tailwind assistance will likely remain valid. Thus, climate change may reduce time and energy requirements and the chance of mortality or vagrancy during a specific but likely critical portion of these species' autumn migration journey. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.

Concepts: Atlantic Ocean, Bird, Albatross, North America, Wind, Caribbean, Bird migration, Flyway


Migration is a prominent aspect of the life history of many avian species, but the demographic consequences of variable migration strategies have only infrequently been investigated, and rarely when using modern technological and analytical methods for assessing survival, movement patterns, and long-term productivity in the context of life history theory. We monitored the fates of 50 satellite-implanted tundra swans (Cygnus columbianus) over 4 years from five disparate breeding areas in Alaska, and used known-fate analyses to estimate monthly survival probability relative to migration distance, breeding area, migratory flyway, breeding status, and age. We specifically tested whether migratory birds face a trade-off, whereby long-distance migrants realize higher survival rates at the cost of lower productivity because of reduced time on breeding areas relative to birds that migrate shorter distances and spend more time on breeding areas.

Concepts: Bird, Human migration, Hunting, Duck, Swan, Bird migration, Flyway, Tundra Swan


Neotropical migratory birds are declining across the Western Hemisphere, but conservation efforts have been hampered by the inability to assess where migrants are most limited - the breeding grounds, migratory stopover sites, or wintering areas. A major challenge has been the lack of an efficient, reliable, and broadly applicable method for measuring the strength of migratory connections between populations across the annual cycle. Here we show how high-resolution genetic markers can be used to identify genetically distinct groups of a migratory bird, the Wilson’s warbler (Cardellina pusilla), at fine enough spatial scales to facilitate assessing regional drivers of demographic trends. By screening 1626 samples using 96 highly divergent single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) selected from a large pool of candidates (~450,000), we identify novel region-specific migratory routes and timetables of migration along the Pacific Flyway. Our results illustrate that high-resolution genetic markers are more reliable, precise, and amenable to high throughput screening than previously described intrinsic marking techniques, making them broadly applicable to large-scale monitoring and conservation of migratory organisms. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.

Concepts: DNA, Genetics, Bioinformatics, Demography, Bird, Population genetics, Bird migration, Flyway


Every year, millions of migratory shorebirds fly through the East Asian-Australasian Flyway between their arctic breeding grounds and Australasia. This flyway includes numerous coastal wetlands in Asia and the Pacific that are used as stopover sites where birds rest and feed. Loss of a few important stopover sites through sea-level rise (SLR) could cause sudden population declines. We formulated and solved mathematically the problem of how to identify the most important stopover sites to minimize losses of bird populations across flyways by conserving land that facilitates upshore shifts of tidal flats in response to SLR. To guide conservation investment that minimizes losses of migratory bird populations during migration, we developed a spatially explicit flyway model coupled with a maximum flow algorithm. Migratory routes of 10 shorebird taxa were modeled in a graph theoretic framework by representing clusters of important wetlands as nodes and the number of birds flying between 2 nodes as edges. We also evaluated several resource allocation algorithms that required only partial information on flyway connectivity (node strategy, based on the impacts of SLR at nodes; habitat strategy, based on habitat change at sites; population strategy, based on population change at sites; and random investment). The resource allocation algorithms based on flyway information performed on average 15% better than simpler allocations based on patterns of habitat loss or local bird counts. The Yellow Sea region stood out as the most important priority for effective conservation of migratory shorebirds, but investment in this area alone will not ensure the persistence of species across the flyway. The spatial distribution of conservation investments differed enormously according to the severity of SLR and whether information about flyway connectivity was used to guide the prioritizations. With the rapid ongoing loss of coastal wetlands globally, our method provides insight into efficient conservation planning for migratory species. Gestión Óptima de una Ruta Migratoria de Múltiples Especies de Aves Costeras Sometida a Incremento del Nivel del Mar.

Concepts: Bird, Seabird, Wader, Resource allocation, Bird migration, Stork, Tern, Flyway


Knowing the natural dynamics of pathogens in migratory birds is important, for example, to understand the factors that influence the transport of pathogens to and their transmission in new geographical areas, whereas the transmission of other pathogens might be restricted to a specific area. We studied haemosporidian blood parasites of the genera Plasmodium, Haemoproteus and Leucocytozoon in a migratory bird, the garden warbler Sylvia borin. Birds were sampled in spring, summer and early autumn at breeding grounds in Sweden, on migration at Capri, Italy and on arrival and departure from wintering staging areas in West Africa: mapping recoveries of garden warblers ringed in Fennoscandia and Capri showed that these sites are most probably on the migratory flyway of garden warblers breeding at Kvismaren. Overall, haemosporidian prevalence was 39%, involving 24 different parasite lineages. Prevalence varied significantly over the migratory cycle, with relatively high prevalence of blood parasites in the population on breeding grounds and at the onset of autumn migration, followed by marked declines in prevalence during migration both on spring and autumn passage. Importantly, we found that when examining circannual variation in the different lineages, significantly different prevalence profiles emerged both between and within genera. Our results suggest that differences in prevalence profiles are the result of either different parasite transmission strategies or coevolution between the host and the various parasite lineages. When separating parasites into common vs. rare lineages, we found that two peaks in the prevalence of rare parasites occur; on arrival at Swedish breeding grounds, and after the wintering period in Africa. Our results stress the importance of appropriate taxonomic resolution when examining host-parasite interactions, as variation in prevalence both between and within parasite genera can show markedly different patterns.

Concepts: Immune system, Africa, Bird, Cuckoo, Bird migration, Bird ringing, Blackcap, Flyway