A Migratory Divide Among Red-Necked Phalaropes in the Western Palearctic Reveals Contrasting Migration and Wintering Movement Strategies

Rob S.A. van Bemmelen*, Yann Kolbeinsson, Raül Ramos, Olivier Gilg, José A. Alves, Malcolm Smith, Hans Schekkerman, Aleksi Lehikoinen, Ib Krag Petersen, Böðvar Þórisson, Aleksandr A. Sokolov, Kaisa Välimäki, Tim Van Der Meer, J.D. Okill, Mark Bolton, Børge Moe, Sveinn Are Hanssen, Loïc Bollache, Aevar Petersen, Sverrir ThorstensenJacob González-Solís, Raymond H.G. Klaassen, I. Tulp

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

27 Citations (Scopus)


Non-breeding movement strategies of migratory birds may be expected to be flexibly adjusted to the distribution and quality of habitat, but few studies compare movement strategies among populations using distinct migration routes and wintering areas. In our study, individual movement strategies of red-necked phalaropes (Phalaropus lobatus), a long-distance migratory wader which uses saline waters in the non-breeding period, were studied using light-level geolocators. Results revealed a migratory divide between two populations with distinct migration routes and wintering areas: one breeding in the north-eastern North Atlantic and migrating ca. 10,000 km oversea to the tropical eastern Pacific Ocean, and the other breeding in Fennoscandia and Russia migrating
ca. 6,000 km—largely over land—to the Arabian Sea (Indian Ocean). In line with our expectations, the transoceanic migration between the North Atlantic and the Pacific was associated with proportionately longer wings, a more even spread of stopovers in autumn and a higher migration speed in spring compared to the migration between Fennoscandian-Russian breeding grounds and the Arabian Sea. In the wintering period, van Bemmelen et al. Contrasting Movement Strategies in Phalaropes birds wintering in the Pacific were stationary in roughly a single area, whereas individuals wintering in the Arabian Sea moved extensively between different areas, reflecting differences in spatio-temporal variation in primary productivity between the two wintering areas. Our study is unique in showing how habitat distribution shapes movement strategies over the entire non-breeding period within a species.
Original languageEnglish
Article number86
Number of pages17
JournalFrontiers in Ecology and Evolution
Publication statusPublished - 21 Apr 2019


  • flexibility
  • itinerancy
  • migration strategy
  • Phalaropus lobatus
  • red-necked phalarope


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