Data from: Matching geographical assignment by stable isotopes with African non-breeding sites of Barn swallows Hirundo rustica tracked by geolocation
Seifert, Nina et al. (2019), Data from: Matching geographical assignment by stable isotopes with African non-breeding sites of Barn swallows Hirundo rustica tracked by geolocation, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.72q5723
Knowledge on whereabouts within the annual cycle of migratory species is prerequisite for many aspects in ecology and biological conservation. Spatial assignments of stable isotopes archived in tissues allows for later inference on sites where the specific tissue had been grown.. It has been rarely tested whether spatial assignments match directly tracked non-breeding residences, especially for migratory songbirds. We here compare assignments of stable isotopes from feathers of Palaearctic Barn swallows Hirundo rustica with their African non-breeding residence sites tracked by geolocation. Assignments based on δ2H, δ13C and δ15N isotope compositions delineate three main non-breeding regions: a main cluster in central Africa, a second in West Africa, and the third cluster in Northern Africa. Using δ13C, δ15N only, non-breeding sites ranged from clusters in West/Southwest Africa to South East Africa with a centre in Central Africa. The non-breeding areas (50% and 75% Kernel density estimates, KDE) of the birds tracked by geolocation stretched from West Africa via central Africa to southern Africa. We found little overlap of 0.3% (assuming an 1:1 odds ratio) to 1.4 % (3:1 odds ratio) in the three element assignments and KDEs for only 2 and 13 individuals out of 32 birds. Assignment maps for two elements (δ13C, δ15N) and KDEs showed higher consistencies with an overlap of 3.6 and 8.5% for 12 and 18 birds. We argue that the low matching between stable isotope assignments and non-breeding sites in our study arise from insufficient baseline data for Africa (concerning both isoscapes and specific discrimination functions). However, other factors like aerial foraging habit of the species, and a potential mismatch of non-breeding site location and the spatial origin of aerial plankton might further hamper accurate assignments. Finally we call for concerted analyses of tissues i.e. feathers and claws of birds which are grown at known sites across the continent and from species with various ecological requirements (diverse habitats, foraging behaviours, and diet compositions) to establish isoscapes for general applicability.