Seasonal matching of habitat quality and fitness in migratory birds

Tómas Grétar Gunnarsson, Jennifer A. Gill, Jason Newton, Peter M. Potts, William J. Sutherland

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173 Citations (Scopus)


When species occupy habitats that vary in quality, choice of habitat can be critical in determining individual fitness. In most migratory species, juveniles migrate independently of their parents and must therefore choose both breeding and winter habitats. Using a unique dataset of marked black-tailed godwits (Limosa limosa islandica) tracked throughout their migratory range, combined with analyses of stable carbon isotope ratios, we show that those individuals that occupy higher quality breeding sites also use higher quality winter sites. This seasonal matching can severely inflate inequalities in individual fitness. This population has expanded over the last century into poorer quality breeding and winter habitats and, across the whole population; individual birds tend to occupy either novel or traditional sites in both seasons. Winter and breeding season habitat selection are thus strongly linked throughout this population; these links have profound implications for a wide range of population and evolutionary processes. As adult godwits are highly philopatric, the initial choice of winter habitat by juveniles will be critical in determining future survival, timing of migration and breeding success.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2319-2323
Number of pages5
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1578
Publication statusPublished - 2005

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