The frost wave hypothesis

How the environment drives autumn departure of migratory waterfowl

Fei Xu, Yali Si*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Migration phenology plays a critical role in shaping bird life histories. While the spring migration phenology of birds has been widely studied, our understanding about the mechanisms underlying autumn migration is limited. Frost is an indicator of cold weather, food scarcity, and water unavailability, but how frost drives the autumn departure of migratory birds has not yet been quantified. In this study we propose the ‘frost wave hypothesis’, which posits that the autumn departure of waterfowl is driven by a successive wave of the onset of frost. Using bird satellite tracking data and generalized linear mixed models, we analyze how the departure probability of two waterfowl species during autumn migration is affected by frost, accumulated temperature, food, snow, ice, short-term weather conditions (i.e., wind, temperature and precipitation), remaining migration distances, relative stopover duration, and flight distances between stopover sites. We find that bird autumn departure probability sharply increases after the first frost spell when the accumulated temperature reaches 0 °C, facilitated by surface meridional wind and longer remaining migration distances. We underline the dominant effect of frost on autumn departure, as birds tend to leave even under head wind if the time lag since the onset of frost is large. Time constraints that trigger southward departure are likely to be stronger when migrating birds are still far from their wintering site. By riding the frost wave, birds manage to maximize stopover site utilization while escaping harsh environmental conditions. Our findings improve the understanding of annual avian migration and help quantify the impact of global climate change on migratory waterfowl.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1018-1025
JournalEcological Indicators
Volume101
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2019

Fingerprint

waterfowl
frost
autumn
bird
birds
stopover
heat sums
phenology
weather
migratory birds
Birds
food
temperature
snow
remote sensing
global climate
life history
ice
flight
environmental conditions

Keywords

  • Autumn migration
  • Food deterioration
  • Migration phenology
  • Temperature
  • Wind selectivity

Cite this

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title = "The frost wave hypothesis: How the environment drives autumn departure of migratory waterfowl",
abstract = "Migration phenology plays a critical role in shaping bird life histories. While the spring migration phenology of birds has been widely studied, our understanding about the mechanisms underlying autumn migration is limited. Frost is an indicator of cold weather, food scarcity, and water unavailability, but how frost drives the autumn departure of migratory birds has not yet been quantified. In this study we propose the ‘frost wave hypothesis’, which posits that the autumn departure of waterfowl is driven by a successive wave of the onset of frost. Using bird satellite tracking data and generalized linear mixed models, we analyze how the departure probability of two waterfowl species during autumn migration is affected by frost, accumulated temperature, food, snow, ice, short-term weather conditions (i.e., wind, temperature and precipitation), remaining migration distances, relative stopover duration, and flight distances between stopover sites. We find that bird autumn departure probability sharply increases after the first frost spell when the accumulated temperature reaches 0 °C, facilitated by surface meridional wind and longer remaining migration distances. We underline the dominant effect of frost on autumn departure, as birds tend to leave even under head wind if the time lag since the onset of frost is large. Time constraints that trigger southward departure are likely to be stronger when migrating birds are still far from their wintering site. By riding the frost wave, birds manage to maximize stopover site utilization while escaping harsh environmental conditions. Our findings improve the understanding of annual avian migration and help quantify the impact of global climate change on migratory waterfowl.",
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The frost wave hypothesis : How the environment drives autumn departure of migratory waterfowl. / Xu, Fei; Si, Yali.

In: Ecological Indicators, Vol. 101, 01.06.2019, p. 1018-1025.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

TY - JOUR

T1 - The frost wave hypothesis

T2 - How the environment drives autumn departure of migratory waterfowl

AU - Xu, Fei

AU - Si, Yali

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AB - Migration phenology plays a critical role in shaping bird life histories. While the spring migration phenology of birds has been widely studied, our understanding about the mechanisms underlying autumn migration is limited. Frost is an indicator of cold weather, food scarcity, and water unavailability, but how frost drives the autumn departure of migratory birds has not yet been quantified. In this study we propose the ‘frost wave hypothesis’, which posits that the autumn departure of waterfowl is driven by a successive wave of the onset of frost. Using bird satellite tracking data and generalized linear mixed models, we analyze how the departure probability of two waterfowl species during autumn migration is affected by frost, accumulated temperature, food, snow, ice, short-term weather conditions (i.e., wind, temperature and precipitation), remaining migration distances, relative stopover duration, and flight distances between stopover sites. We find that bird autumn departure probability sharply increases after the first frost spell when the accumulated temperature reaches 0 °C, facilitated by surface meridional wind and longer remaining migration distances. We underline the dominant effect of frost on autumn departure, as birds tend to leave even under head wind if the time lag since the onset of frost is large. Time constraints that trigger southward departure are likely to be stronger when migrating birds are still far from their wintering site. By riding the frost wave, birds manage to maximize stopover site utilization while escaping harsh environmental conditions. Our findings improve the understanding of annual avian migration and help quantify the impact of global climate change on migratory waterfowl.

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