Skip to main page content
Access keys NCBI Homepage MyNCBI Homepage Main Content Main Navigation
, 8 (4), 505-7

Cross-hemisphere Migration of a 25 G Songbird

Affiliations

Cross-hemisphere Migration of a 25 G Songbird

Franz Bairlein et al. Biol Lett.

Abstract

The northern wheatear (Oenanthe oenanthe) is a small (approx. 25 g), insectivorous migrant with one of the largest ranges of any songbird in the world, breeding from the eastern Canadian Arctic across Greenland, Eurasia and into Alaska (AK). However, there is no evidence that breeding populations in the New World have established overwintering sites in the Western Hemisphere. Using light-level geolocators, we demonstrate that individuals from these New World regions overwinter in northern sub-Sahara Africa, with Alaskan birds travelling approximately 14 500 km each way and an eastern Canadian Arctic bird crossing a wide stretch of the North Atlantic (approx. 3500 km). These remarkable journeys, particularly for a bird of this size, last between one to three months depending on breeding location and season (autumn/spring) and result in mean overall migration speeds of up to 290 km d(-1). Stable-hydrogen isotope analysis of winter-grown feathers sampled from breeding birds generally support the notion that Alaskan birds overwinter primarily in eastern Africa and eastern Canadian Arctic birds overwinter mainly in western Africa. Our results provide the first evidence of a migratory songbird capable of linking African ecosystems of the Old World with Arctic regions of the New World.

Figures

Figure 1.
Figure 1.
Migration routes and wintering grounds of three northern wheatears breeding in Alaskan (AK) and one in the eastern Canadian Arctic (CN; grey dot, breeding area, blue, autumn migration, orange, spring migration, dashed lines indicate uncertainty in migration routes close to equinoxes). Fifty per cent kernel densities of winter fixes (beginning of December 2009–end of February; purple, bird AK-1; green, bird AK-2; orange, bird AK-3; blue, bird CN-1) are given depending on the sun elevation selected (with −2° for most southern and with −4.5° for most northern densities). Pie charts indicate the proportion of individuals (AK: n = 9, CN: n = 4) originating from one of the three pre-defined wintering regions (red, western; orange, central; yellow, eastern) [8] based on stable-hydrogen isotope (δD) values in winter grown feathers and the δD values within each wintering region (mean ± s.d. shown).

Similar articles

See all similar articles

Cited by 46 PubMed Central articles

See all "Cited by" articles

Publication types

LinkOut - more resources

Feedback