Can long-distance migratory birds adjust to the advancement of spring by shortening migration distance? The response of the pied flycatcher to latitudinal photoperiodic variation

Authors

  • TIMOTHY COPPACK,

    1. Vogelwarte Radolfzell, Max Planck Institute for Ornithology, Schlossallee 2, D-78315 Radolfzell, Germany,
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    • 1T. C. and F. P. contributed equally to this work.

  • ILSE TINDEMANS,

    1. Bio-Imaging Laboratory, University of Antwerp, Groenenborgerlaan 171, B-2020 Antwerp, Belgium,
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  • MICHAEL CZISCH,

    1. NMR Research Group, Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry, Kraepelinstrasse 2-10, D-80804 Munich, Germany,
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  • ANNEMIE VAN der LINDEN,

    1. Bio-Imaging Laboratory, University of Antwerp, Groenenborgerlaan 171, B-2020 Antwerp, Belgium,
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  • PETER BERTHOLD,

    1. Vogelwarte Radolfzell, Max Planck Institute for Ornithology, Schlossallee 2, D-78315 Radolfzell, Germany,
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  • FRANCISCO PULIDO

    1. Netherlands Institute of Ecology (NIOO-KNAW), PO Box 40, 6666 ZG Heteren, The Netherlands
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    • 1T. C. and F. P. contributed equally to this work.

    • 2Present address: Faculty of Biology, Department of Zoology and Physical Anthropology, Universidad Complutense Madrid, E-28040 Madrid, Spain.


Present address: Timothy Coppack, Zoological Museum, University of Zurich, Winterthurerstrasse 190, CH-8057 Zurich, Switzerland, e-mail: coppack@access.uzh.ch

Abstract

Many organisms use day length as a cue for synchronizing their life cycles with seasonal changes in environmental productivity. Under rapid climate change, however, responses to day length may become maladaptive, and photo-responsive organisms may only be able to evade increasingly unsuitable habitats if they can accommodate to a wide range of photoperiodic conditions. A previous experiment showed that the pied flycatcher, Ficedula hypoleuca, a Palaearctic-Afrotropical migratory bird, would strongly advance the timing of spring migration and reproductive maturation if it shifted its wintering area from sub-Saharan Africa to the Mediterranean region. However, it is unknown whether this marked response to latitudinal variation in photoperiodic conditions is continuous over the entire range of potential wintering areas, and if a shortening of migration distance would be an effective mechanism to adjust the timing of migration to rapidly changing climatic conditions. Here, we experimentally show that a moderate northward displacement of the pied flycatcher's current wintering grounds by 10° would result in a clear advancement of the termination of prenuptial moult and the initiation of spring migratory activity and gonadal growth. However, we found no further advancement under conditions simulating higher wintering latitudes, suggesting the existence of a critical photoperiodic threshold or a steep gradual response within a narrow geographical range between 10° and 20° northern latitude. Because habitat conditions in this area are deteriorating rapidly, the potential for pied flycatchers to adjust their life cycle to changing climatic conditions by shortening the migration distance may be limited in the future.

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