Spatial distribution and habitat use of reed warblers Acrocephalus scirpaceus during the autumn migration

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Spatial behaviour and habitat selection at stopover sites have a strong influence on the foraging and fuelling performance of migrating birds and hence are important aspects of stopover ecology. The aim of this study was to analyse the spatial behaviour and habitat use of reed warblers Acrocephalus scirpaceus during the autumn migration. We used radio tracking data from reed warblers surveyed at a stopover site in northern Iberia and assigned to three different groups: (1) local adult birds which were still at their breeding site, (2) migrating first-year birds (originating from beyond Iberian peninsula) and (3) migrating adult birds. Overall, migrating first-year birds tended to have larger home ranges than both local and migrating adults and to move more widely in the study area. They also showed lower fat deposition rates than adults. The proportion of habitats in home ranges (reed-beds and tidal flats being the most abundant habitats) was similar amongst groups. The spatial distribution and habitat use of organisms have been theorised to follow an ideal-free or ideal-despotic distribution. However, according to our results, other complex underlying mechanisms may play an important role in shaping the spatial behaviour of birds at stopover sites.



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  • Core area (50% kernel areas) overlap for reed warblers tracked simultaneously on more than two consecutive days (above, 3 local adults and 2 first-year migrants; below, 4 migrating adults and 2 first-year migrating reed warblers). Different colours correspond to the core areas of different individuals. Dotted margins correspond to first-year individuals and continuous ones to adults (above, locals; below, migrating individuals).

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  • Proportion (mean ± SE) of habitat types present in reed warbler home ranges. Different types of birds have been considered separately: FY, migrating first-year birds; LA, local adult birds; MA, migrating adult birds. Abbreviations: WATR, free water area; WOOD, woodlands; REED, reed-beds; ORCH, orchards; MSTR, man-made structures; GRAS, grasslands; FLAT, tidal flats (lime surfaces with halophytic vegetation).

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  • Biplots from Principal Component Analyses on the surface proportion of each habitat type for 50% and 95% Kernel Area. Dots, crosses and squares are the home ranges of migrating first-year reed warblers, local adults and migrating adults respectively. Abbreviations: WATR, free water area; WOOD, woodlands; REED, reed-beds; ORCH, orchards; MSTR, man-made structures; GRAS, grasslands; FLAT, tidal flats (lime surfaces with halophytic vegetation).

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