Timing of breeding carries over to influence migratory departure in a songbird: an automated radiotracking study


Correspondence author. E-mail: mitchelg@uoguelph.ca


1. Determining how events interact across stages of the annual cycle is critical for understanding the factors that affect individual fitness. However, there is currently little information detailing how breeding events influence migratory behaviour.

2. Using an automated digital telemetry array and an isolated island-breeding population of Savannah sparrows Passerculus sandwichensis, we provide the first direct evidence that the timing of breeding events carries over to influence the timing of migration in a songbird and assess for the first time how weather conditions on the breeding grounds also affect departure dates.

3. Date of migratory departure between September and October was strongly influenced by date of breeding completion in adults and fledging date in juveniles from June to July.

4. With respect to weather, adults departed during the first half of high-pressure systems, while juveniles departed throughout the entirety of high-pressure systems (including rainy evenings on the western edge of systems).

5. By combining both ecological and weather data, we could explain almost all variation in departure date for adults (95%), but weather conditions were not a good predictor of departure date for juveniles.

6. Our results provide strong evidence that the timing of breeding events is an important driver of migration timing and that exact departure dates are fine-tuned according to local weather conditions in adults, but not in juveniles.