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Migration speeds among eleven species of long-distance migrating passerines across Europe, the desert and eastern Africa


  • Elizabeth Yohannes,

  • Herbert Biebach,

  • Gerhard Nikolaus,

  • David J. Pearson

E. Yohannes (correspondence), Max Planck Institute for Ornithology, Behav. Ecol. & Evol. Genetics, P.O. Box 1564, D-82305 Starnberg (Seewiesen), Germany. E-mail: – H. Biebach, Max-Planck Institute for Ornithology, Von-der-Tann Str. 7, D – 82346, Andechs, Germany. – G. Nikolaus, Padingbutteler Strich 36, 27632 Padingbutteler, Germany. – D. J. Pearson, Lupin Close Reydon, Southwold, Suffolk IP18 6NW, UK.


Based on phenology, passage and median dates gathered from large number of study sites, we measured autumn and spring migration speeds of eleven long distance migratory passerines in four different ecogeographic sectors: Europe, desert, north-eastern and eastern Africa. Results demonstrate that, during the southward autumn migration, late-departing species, such as lesser whitethroat Sylvia curruca, garden warbler S. borin, spotted flycatcher Muscicapa striata, whitethroat S. borin, and willow warbler Phylloscopus trochilus cover their migration route with a slower average migration speed across Europe than do early migrating species. During spring migration, late-departing species (marsh warbler Acrocephalus palustris, garden warbler, spotted flycatcher, red-backed shrike Lanius collurio) across north-eastern Africa showed a higher speed than early migrating species. Our results show overall shorter migration duration estimates in spring than autumn. Sector-wise seasonal comparisons of duration indicate that migration journey in the African and desert sectors are covered in a relatively shorter time in spring than in autumn. Periods required to cover the distance between northern latitude breeding grounds and desert during both seasons were equivalent.