The onset of spring and timing of migration in two arctic nesting goose populations : the pink-footed goose Anser bachyrhynchus and the barnacle goose Branta leucopsis

I. M Tombre, K. A Høgda, J Madsen, L. R Griffin, Eckhart Kuijken, P Shimmings, E Rees, Christine Verscheure

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    An earlier onset of spring has been recorded for many parts of Eurasia in recent decades. This has consequences for migratory species, both in changing the conditions encountered by individuals on reaching migratory sites and in affecting cues regulating the timing of migration where decisions to migrate are influenced by local environmental variables. Here we examine the timing of spring migration for two arctic goose populations, the pink-footed goose Anser brachyrhynchus (during 1990-2003) and barnacle goose Branta leucopsis (during 1982-2003), which both breed on Svalbard. The satellite-derived Normalised Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) was used to express the onset of spring at their wintering and spring staging sites. Pink-footed geese use several sites during spring migration, ranging from the southernmost wintering areas in Belgium to two spring staging areas in Norway, and distances between sites used along the flyway are relatively short. There was a positive correlation in the onset of spring between neighbouring sites, and the geese migrated earlier in early springs. Barnacle geese, on the other hand, have a long overseas crossing from their wintering grounds in Britain to spring staging areas in Norway. Although spring advanced in both regions, there was no corresponding correlation in the timing of onset of spring between their wintering and spring staging sites, and little evidence for barnacle geese migrating earlier over the whole study period. Hence, where geese can use spring conditions at one site as an indicator of the conditions they might encounter at the next, they have responded quickly to the advancement of spring, whereas in a situation where they cannot predict, they have not yet responded, despite the advancement of spring in the spring staging area.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalJournal of Avian Biology
    Issue number6
    Pages (from-to)691-703
    Number of pages13
    Publication statusPublished - 2008


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