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Cyprus wheatears Oenanthe cypriaca likely reach sub-Saharan African wintering grounds in a single migratory flight

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Abstract

Long-distance migratory flights with multiple stop-overs, multiple wintering sites, and small-scale connectivity in Afro-Palearctic migrants are likely to increase their vulnerability to environmental change and lead to declining populations. Here we present the migration tracks and wintering locations of the first six Cyprus Wheatears to be tracked with geolocators: a species with high survival and a stable population. We therefore predicted a non-stop flight from Cyprus to sub-Saharan wintering grounds, a single wintering area for each individual and a wide spread of wintering locations representing low migratory connectivity at the population level. The sub-Saharan wintering grounds in South Sudan, Sudan and Ethiopia were likely reached by a single flight of an average straight-line distance of 2,538 km in ca. 60 hours, with an average minimum speed of 43.1 km h-1. The high speed of migration probably ruled out stop-overs greater than a few hours. Cyprus Wheatears migrated from Cyprus in mid-late October and most probably remained at a single location throughout winter; three out of five birds with available data may have used a second site <100 km away during February; all returned between the 7 – 22nd March when accurate geolocation data are not possible due to the equinox. Wintering locations were spread over at least 950 km. There were no tag effects on survival. Cyprus Wheatears showed a migratory strategy in accordance with their observed high survival rate and demonstrated a routine flight range that allows much of the Mediterranean and the Sahara to be crossed in a rapid two and a half-day flight.
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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)529-535
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Avian Biology
Volume48
Issue number4
Early online date20 Jan 2017
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2017

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