Stopover behaviour and departure decision of northern wheatears,Oenanthe oenanthe, facing different onward non-stop flight distances

Northern Wheatear (Oenanthe oenanthe) Science Article 1


On the small North Sea island Helgoland (54 deg 11??N, 07 deg 55??E) we studied the stopover ecology of two subspecies of northern wheatear, Oenanthe oenanthe, during spring migration. Birds heading for Scandinavia (O. o. oenanthe) face only short flights across an ecological barrier (50-500 km) whereas those originating from Greenland and Iceland (O. o. leucorhoa) have to cover between 1,000 and 2,500 km in the impending flight. Colour-ringed individuals showed that 90% of Scandinavian birds left on the day of ringing while 40% (males) and 30% (females) of Greenland/Icelandic birds stayed at least 1 night. The birds who remained were thus mostly O. o. leucorhoa. They often established desirable feeding territories on the beach and had a high rate of body mass increase (1.7 g/day). However, subspecies did not differ in habitat choice and in foraging effort, but O. o. leucorhoa had a higher success rate in pecking. Departure decisions were analysed by comparing (a) conditions on the day of ringing between departing and staying birds and (b) for birds staying between the day of departure and the preceding day. The factors that were probably important in the decision to depart differed between subspecies.

Volker Dierschke ,and Julia Delingat, Behav Ecol Sociobiol (2001) 50:535-545

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