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Weak evidence of carry-over effects of overwinter climate and habitat productivity on spring passage of migratory songbirds at a northern stopover site in Ontario

Citation

Horn, Lisa; Remmel, Tarmo; Stutchbury, Bridget (2021), Weak evidence of carry-over effects of overwinter climate and habitat productivity on spring passage of migratory songbirds at a northern stopover site in Ontario , Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.pnvx0k6m5

Abstract

Reduced rainfall in tropical regions decreases the availability of food resources for overwintering songbirds, with negative impacts on their body condition. Increasingly dry conditions at tropical wintering sites as a result of climate change may impact the ability of temperate-breeding songbirds to prepare for and execute their spring migration. We studied the carry-over effects of natural climatic fluctuations created by the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) in tropical overwintering areas on seven long-distance migratory songbirds at a Canadian stopover site. We used the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index as a proxy for tropical habitat productivity and resource availability and a 34-year bird banding dataset from Long Point, Ontario, Canada to assess migration timing and stopover body condition. To increase our ability to detect potential carry-over effects, we employed a novel approach of using recent migratory connectivity studies to restrict the wintering ranges to areas most likely used by individuals passing through southern Ontario. Using linear models, we found that overwinter habitat productivity was significantly negatively influenced by dry ENSO events in the overwintering ranges in 3 of 7 species, with a fourth near-significant. Subregional differences in the effect of ENSO on precipitation patterns may explain why we did not detect a consistent effect of ENSO on overwinter habitat productivity for all species. Despite restricting the wintering range and using a robust dataset for species with diverse life histories, we detected only weak and often conflicting evidence of population-level carry-over effects from dry ENSO events and overwinter habitat productivity. Negative carry-over effects may be strongest and most evident during the earlier stages of migration because birds may be able to compensate to some extent for poor departure condition and late departure while en route.

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