Resource tracking within and across continents in long-distance bird migrants

Kasper Thorup, Anders P. Tøttrup, Mikkel Willemoes, Raymond H. G. Klaassen, Roine Strandberg, Marta Lomas Vega, Hari Prasad Dasari, Miguel B. Araújo, Martin Wikelski, Carsten Rahbek

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

193 Scopus citations


Migratory birds track seasonal resources across and between continents. We propose a general strategy of tracking the broad seasonal abundance of resources throughout the annual cycle in the longest-distance migrating land birds as an alternative to tracking a certain climatic niche or shorter-term resource surplus occurring, for example, during spring foliation. Whether and how this is possible for complex annual spatiotemporal schedules is not known. New tracking technology enables unprecedented spatial and temporal mapping of long-distance movement of birds. We show that three Palearctic-African species track vegetation greenness throughout their annual cycle, adjusting the timing and direction of migratory movements with seasonal changes in resource availability over Europe and Africa. Common cuckoos maximize the vegetation greenness, whereas red-backed shrikes and thrush nightingales track seasonal surplus in greenness. Our results demonstrate that the longest-distance migrants move between consecutive staging areas even within the wintering region in Africa to match seasonal variation in regional climate. End-of-century climate projections indicate that optimizing greenness would be possible but that vegetation surplus might be more difficult to track in the future.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)e1601360
JournalScience advances
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 4 2017

Bibliographical note

KAUST Repository Item: Exported on 2020-10-01
Acknowledgements: K.T. thanks the Danish Council for Independent Research for support to the MATCH project (1323-00048B). K.T., A.P.T., M.W., M.L.V., M.B.A., and C.R. thank the Danish National Research Foundation for support to the Center for Macroecology, Evolution and Climate (DNRF96). H.P.D. and M.B.A. also acknowledge support from IC&DT Project (1/SAESCTN/ALENT-07-0224-FEDER-001755).


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