Stable isotope analysis reveals biases in the performance of a morphological method to distinguish the migratory behaviour of European Robins Erithacus rubecula


Authors: Iván DE LA HERA, Guillermo FANDOS, Javier FERNÁNDEZ-LÓPEZ, Alejandro ONRUBIA, Antón PÉREZ-RODRÍGUEZ and Javier PÉREZ-TRIS and José Luis TELLERÍA


Published: Volume 64.2, July 2017. Pages 377-386.

Language: Spanish

Original Title: El análisis de isótopos estables revela sesgos en el funcionamiento de un método morfológico para diferenciar el comportamiento migratorio de los petirrojos Erithacus rubecula

Keywords: Campo de Gibraltar, deuterio, funciones discriminantes, interacciones simpátricas and plumas rectrices


Morphological methods to distinguish between avian groups of research interest (e.g. different sexes, populations or cryptic species) need to be externally validated to ensure reliable performance across situations. In this study, we used stable hydrogen isotope ratios of feathers (d2Hf) to test the validity of morphological classification functions (MCFs) previously designed to assess the migratory behaviour of European Robins Erithacus rubecula wintering in southern Iberia. Our results show that a great number of migrants (mostly females and juveniles) were erroneously assigned as sedentary, which could compromise the reliability of previous ecological studies that made use of these MCFs. The development of improved MCFs or the use of alternative differentiation methods (d2Hf) could help us to gain a more realistic insight into the habitat distribution and ecological interactions of sympatric migratory and sedentary robins overwintering in southern Iberia.

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