Ecological Causes and Consequences of Intratropical Migration in Temperate-Breeding Migratory Birds

Am Nat. 2016 Sep;188 Suppl 1:S28-40. doi: 10.1086/687531. Epub 2016 Jul 15.


New discoveries from direct tracking of temperate-breeding passerines show that intratropical migration (ITM) occurs in a growing number of species, which has important implications for understanding their evolution of migration, population dynamics, and conservation needs. Our large sample size ([Formula: see text]) for purple martins (Progne subis subis) tracked with geolocators to winter sites in Brazil, combined with geolocator deployments at breeding colonies across North America, allowed us to test hypotheses for ITM, something which has not yet been possible to do for other species. ITM in purple martins was not obligate; only 44% of individuals exhibited ITM, and movements were not coordinated in time or space. We found no evidence to support the resource hypothesis; rainfall and temperature experienced by individual birds during their last 2 weeks at their first roost site were similar to conditions at their second roost site after ITM. Birds generally migrated away from the heavily forested northwestern Amazon to less forested regions to the south and east. ITM in this aerial insectivore appears to support the competition-avoidance hypothesis and may be triggered by increasing local density in the core wintering region. Full life cycle models and migratory networks will need to incorporate ITM to properly address seasonal carryover effects and identify which wintering regions are most important for conservation.

Keywords: intratropical migration; migration; seasonality; temperate bias; wintering grounds.

MeSH terms

  • Animal Migration*
  • Animals
  • Birds*
  • Brazil
  • Breeding*
  • Ecology
  • North America
  • Seasons

Associated data

  • Dryad/10.5061/dryad.mb65n