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CR 35:123-134 (2007)  -  DOI:

Temperature and rainfall anomalies in Africa predict timing of spring migration in trans-Saharan migratory birds

Nicola Saino1,*, Diego Rubolini1, Niclas Jonzén2, Torbjørn Ergon3, Alessandro Montemaggiori4, Nils Chr. Stenseth3, Fernando Spina5

1Dipartimento di Biologia, Università degli Studi di Milano, via Celoria 26, 20133 Milan, Italy
2Department of Theoretical Ecology, Ecology Building, Lund University, 22362 Lund, Sweden
3Centre for Ecological and Evolutionary Synthesis (CEES), Department of Biology, University of Oslo, PO Box 1066, Blindern, 0316 Oslo, Norway
4Istituto di Ecologia Applicata, Via Cremona 71, 00161 Rome, Italy
5Istituto Nazionale per la Fauna Selvatica, via Ca’ Fornacetta 9, 40064 Ozzano Emilia (BO), Italy

ABSTRACT: The long-term advance in the timing of bird spring migration in the Northern Hemisphere is associated with global climate change. The extent to which changes in bird phenology reflect responses to weather conditions in the wintering or breeding areas, or during migration, however, remains to be elucidated. We analyse the relationships between the timing of spring migration of 9 species of trans-Saharan migratory birds across the Mediterranean, and thermal and precipitation anomalies in the main wintering areas south of the Sahara Desert and in North African stopover areas. Median migration dates were collected on the island of Capri (southern Italy) by standardized mist-netting during 1981 to 2004. High temperatures in sub-Saharan Africa (Sahel and Gulf of Guinea) prior to northward migration (February and March) were associated with advanced migration. Moreover, birds migrated earlier when winter rainfall in North Africa was more abundant. The relationships between relevant meteorological variables and timing of migration were remarkably consistent among species, suggesting a coherent response to the same extrinsic stimuli. All these results were obtained while statistically controlling for the long-term trend towards the earlier timing of spring migration across the Mediterranean that has been documented in previous analyses of the same dataset, a trend that was confirmed by the present analyses. In conclusion, our results suggest that thermal conditions in the wintering quarters, as well as rainfall in North African stopover areas, can influence interannual variation in migration phenology of trans-Saharan migratory birds, although the ecological mechanisms that causally link meteorological conditions to the timing of migration remain a matter of speculation.

KEY WORDS: Arrival date · Long-distance migration · Mediterranean · Sahel · Weather

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Cite this article as: Saino N, Rubolini D, Jonzén N, Ergon T, Montemaggiori A, Stenseth NC, Spina F (2007) Temperature and rainfall anomalies in Africa predict timing of spring migration in trans-Saharan migratory birds. Clim Res 35:123-134.

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