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Long-distance travellers stopover for longer: a case study with spoonbills staying in North Iberia

Navedo, Juan G., Orizaola, Germán, Masero, José A., Overdijk, Otto, Sánchez-Guzmán, Juan M.
Journal für Ornithologie 2010 v.151 no.4 pp. 915-921
Platalea leucorodia, adults, autumn, breeding, case studies, flight, migratory behavior, migratory species, overwintering, stopover sites, water birds, wintering grounds, Africa, Iberian Peninsula
Long-distance migration is widespread among birds, connecting breeding and wintering areas through a set of stopover localities where individuals refuel and/or rest. The extent of the stopover is critical in determining the migratory strategy of a bird. Here, we examined the relationship between minimum length of stay of PVC-ringed birds in a major stopover site and the remaining flight distance to the overwintering area in the Eurasian spoonbill (Platalea l. leucorodia) during four consecutive autumn migrations. We also analysed the potential effect of timing (arrival date), as well as the role of experience in explaining stopover duration of spoonbills. Overall, birds wintering in Africa, and facing long-distance travel from the stopover site (ca. 3,000 km) stay for longer (2.7 ± 0.4 days) than Iberian winterers (1.5 ± 0.2 days) that perform a much shorter migration (ca. 800 km). These differences were consistent between years. Stopover duration was not significantly affected by the age of the bird. However, there was a significant reduction as migration advanced. Our results suggest that spoonbills develop different stopover strategies depending on the expected distance to the wintering grounds. Adults, especially long-distance migratory ones, could reduce the potential negative effects of density-dependence processes by avoiding stopover at the end of the migration period. These findings are of significant relevance for understanding differences in migratory behaviour within single populations, especially for declining waterbirds, as well as stress the relevance of preserving stopover localities for the conservation of intraspecific diversity in migratory species.