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Where the wild birds go: explaining the differences in migratory destinations across terrestrial bird species

Somveille, Marius, Manica, Andrea, Rodrigues, Ana S. L.
Ecography 2019 v.42 no.2 pp. 225-236
Geographical Locations, additive effect, breeding, geography, habitats, migratory behavior, migratory birds, models, prediction, temperature, wild birds
Given their large movement capacities, migratory birds have in principle a wide range of possible geographical locations for their breeding and non‐breeding destinations, yet each species migrates between consistent breeding and non‐breeding ranges. In this study, we use a macroecological approach to search for the general factors explaining the location of the seasonal ranges of migratory bird species across the globe. We develop a null model to test the hypotheses that access to resources, geographical distance, tracking of temperature, and habitat conditions (separately as well as considered together) have a major influence in the location of species’ migratory destinations, once each species’ geographical constraints are taken into account. Our results provide evidence for a trade‐off between costs associated with distance travelled and gains in terms of better access to resources. We also provide strong support to the hypotheses that all factors tested, with the exception of habitat, have a strong and additive effect on the global geography of bird migration. Indeed, our results indicate that species’ contemporary migratory destinations (i.e. the combination of their breeding and non‐breeding ranges) are such that they allow species to track a temperature regime throughout the year, to escape local competition and reach areas with better access to resources, and to minimise the spatial distance travelled, within the limitations imposed by the geographical location of each species. Our study thus sheds light on the mechanisms underpinning bird migration and provides a strong basis for predicting how migratory species will respond to future change.