Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
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Migratory connectivity and population-specific migration routes in a long-distance migratory bird

Christiane Trierweiler

Christiane Trierweiler

Dutch Montagu's Harrier Foundation, PO Box 46, Scheemda 9679 ZG, The Netherlands

Animal Ecology Group, Centre for Ecological and Evolutionary Studies, University of Groningen, PO Box 11103, Groningen 9700 CC, The Netherlands

Behavioural Ecology and Self-organization, Centre for Ecological and Evolutionary Studies, University of Groningen, PO Box 11103, Groningen 9700 CC, The Netherlands

Institute of Avian Research ‘Vogelwarte Helgoland’, An der Vogelwarte 21, Wilhelmshaven 26386, Germany

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Raymond H. G. Klaassen

Raymond H. G. Klaassen

Dutch Montagu's Harrier Foundation, PO Box 46, Scheemda 9679 ZG, The Netherlands

Animal Ecology Group, Centre for Ecological and Evolutionary Studies, University of Groningen, PO Box 11103, Groningen 9700 CC, The Netherlands

[email protected]

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Rudi H. Drent

Rudi H. Drent

Animal Ecology Group, Centre for Ecological and Evolutionary Studies, University of Groningen, PO Box 11103, Groningen 9700 CC, The Netherlands

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Klaus-Michael Exo

Klaus-Michael Exo

Institute of Avian Research ‘Vogelwarte Helgoland’, An der Vogelwarte 21, Wilhelmshaven 26386, Germany

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Jan Komdeur

Jan Komdeur

Behavioural Ecology and Self-organization, Centre for Ecological and Evolutionary Studies, University of Groningen, PO Box 11103, Groningen 9700 CC, The Netherlands

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Franz Bairlein

Franz Bairlein

Institute of Avian Research ‘Vogelwarte Helgoland’, An der Vogelwarte 21, Wilhelmshaven 26386, Germany

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Ben J. Koks

Ben J. Koks

Dutch Montagu's Harrier Foundation, PO Box 46, Scheemda 9679 ZG, The Netherlands

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    Knowledge about migratory connectivity, the degree to which individuals from the same breeding site migrate to the same wintering site, is essential to understand processes affecting populations of migrants throughout the annual cycle. Here, we study the migration system of a long-distance migratory bird, the Montagu's harrier Circus pygargus, by tracking individuals from different breeding populations throughout northern Europe. We identified three main migration routes towards wintering areas in sub-Saharan Africa. Wintering areas and migration routes of different breeding populations overlapped, a pattern best described by ‘weak (diffuse) connectivity’. Migratory performance, i.e. timing, duration, distance and speed of migration, was surprisingly similar for the three routes despite differences in habitat characteristics. This study provides, to our knowledge, a first comprehensive overview of the migration system of a Palaearctic-African long-distance migrant. We emphasize the importance of spatial scale (e.g. distances between breeding populations) in defining patterns of connectivity and suggest that knowledge about fundamental aspects determining distribution patterns, such as the among-individual variation in mean migration directions, is required to ultimately understand migratory connectivity. Furthermore, we stress that for conservation purposes it is pivotal to consider wintering areas as well as migration routes and in particular stopover sites.

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