Wintering and migration of Bluethroat Luscinia svecica in central Spain

Authors: Ana BERMEJO and Javier DE LA PUENTE

Published: Volume 51(2), December 2004. Pages 285-296.

Language: English

Keywords: Bluethroat, central Spain, Luscinia svecica, migration and wintering


Aims: Birds have been able to change their breeding and wintering areas by tracking variation in different conditions. In the last decades, the winter distribution of the Bluethroat had been changing. This passerine winters mainly in Africa, although observations of birds wintering in Iberia have increased since the 1970s. We describe its migration and wintering patterns in central Spain, and try to understand the causes for this change in the wintering range.

Location: The study was conducted at Las Minas Ringing Station (San Martín de la Vega, Madrid, 40.13ºN 6.32ºW).

Methods: Data used was obtained at a constant ringing effort site in central Spain from 1995 to 2002. Captured birds were ringed, aged and sexed, and a variety of biometrics was taken.

Results: Bluethroats captured in central Spain belonged to the cyanecula and namnetum subspecies, and come from central Europe. First birds arrived in late August or early September, and last birds left at the end of March. Part of the population annually winters in the area exhibiting similar patterns of arrival and departure dates throughout the years, and shows a high return rate. More males than females were captured, especially in winter. Wintering and non-wintering Bluethroat populations were similar in structure, biometrics and body condition, therefore wintering birds did not seem to be birds that for some reason (e.g. small size, bad body condition, inexperience), were unable to reach their usual wintering quarters in Africa.

Conclusions: Wintering in Iberia could be advantageous because birds wintering closer to their breeding areas may arrive there earlier than those wintering in Africa. The results point to this hypothesis: the wintering population was comprised mainly of males, they arrived at the wintering area on a similar date each year, were in better body condition than other birds in winter and the return rate of the wintering population was high.

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