The catastrophic drought last year in the Horn of Africa affected millions of people but also caused the extremely late arrival into northern Europe of several migratory songbird species, a study from University of Copenhagen published today in Scienceshows. Details of the migration route was revealed by data collected from small back-packs fitted on birds showing that the delay resulted from an extended stay in the Horn of Africa.
The extensive 2011 drought in the Horn of Africa had significant consequences for European songbirds such as thrush nightingale and red-backed shrike. These birds visit northern Europe every spring to mate and take advantage of ample summer food resources. However, their spring migrating route from southern Africa to northern latitudes passes directly through the Horn of Africa, where the birds stop to feed and refuel for the next stage of their migration.
- Our research was able to couple the birds' delayed arrival in Europe with that stopover in the Horn of Africa. Here they stayed about a week longer in 2011 than in the years before and after 2011. Because of the drought, the birds would have needed longer to feed and gain energy for their onward travel, causing delayed arrival and breeding in Europe. This supports our theory that migrating animals in general are dependent on a series of areas to reach their destination, says Associate Professor Anders Tøttrup from the Center for Macroecology, Evolution and Climate at the University of Copenhagen.
Data loggers as a backpack
The late spring arrival of European songbirds such as thrush nightingale and red-backed shrike perplexed researchers and bird watchers in 2011. This mystery was even greater considering these songbirds' tendency to arrive progressively earlier over the last 50 years as climate change has made its impact. By placing small data loggers on the backs of several birds in the autumn before their migration to Africa, and retrieving them in the spring when the birds returned to Europe, the scientists were able to trace the migration route and stopover sites. These data revealed a delay in the particular stopover in the Horn of Africa. Additionally, it was noted that other migrating birds not passing through the Horn of Africa arrived in Europe at the expected time.
- We have reconstructed 26 migration routes based on data from the small "data backpacks" weighing just 1 gram. This new technology provides us with a detailed picture of the birds' migration and stopovers. It is brand-new territory to be able to track animals this small over such great distances, says Associate Professor Kasper Thorup from the Center for Macroecology, Evolution and Climate at the University of Copenhagen.
The birds' late arrival in 2011 also meant a similarly late breeding year.
- There are no signs of implications on the birds' breeding success and thereby the size of the population. But it is possible that we haven't yet seen the full effect of the delayed year, concludes Anders Tøttrup.
University of Copenhagen: http://www.ku.dk
This press release was posted to serve as a topic for discussion. Please comment below. We try our best to only post press releases that are associated with peer reviewed scientific literature. Critical discussions of the research are appreciated. If you need help finding a link to the original article, please contact us on twitter or via e-mail.
An 18-month off-road trial will test underground charging systems to juice up on the go and extend driving range
Yosemite, Redwood, and other famous parks as they look from outer space
8-year-old Harapan joins his brother at an Indonesian breeding sanctuary; fewer than 100 "hairy rhinos" are left in the world
The white Kermode bear of British Columbia is galvanizing First Nations people fighting to protect their homeland
A naturalist cuts through the myths surrounding the invasive plant
Attracting the right species can help get rid of vine-munching insects and allow farmers to cut back on pesticides
"We are seeing wildfires in the United States grow to sizes that were unimaginable just 20 or 30 years ago"
Driftwood on Iceland and other Arctic islands is younger than once thought
Electric shock training and surgery are starting to pay off for the teams fighting to save one of the world's largest birds
As bat populations dwindle, a new effort is aimed at getting North America's bat researchers working on the same page.