Stopover durations of three warbler species along their autumn migration route
In migrating birds, the success of migration is determined by stopover duration, the most important factor determining overall speed of migration, and fuel deposition rate. However, very little is known about stopover durations of small migrant birds, because appropriate methods for data analysis were lacking until recently. We used a new capture-recapture analysis to estimate stopover durations of 1st-year reed warblers Acrocephalus scirpaceus , sedge warblers A. schoenobaenus and garden warblers Sylvia borin at 17 stopover sites in Europe and Africa during autumn. Average stopover duration of non-moulting reed warblers was 9.5 days while moulting conspecifics stayed about twice as long. Average stopover duration of sedge warblers was 9.1 days and, in contrast to the other two species, differed between years at several sites. Garden warblers stayed 7.7 days on average. The long stopover duration of the reed warbler, resulting in slow overall migration speed, is related to its low fuel deposition rate. It can be explained by low, but predictable, food resources and an early departure during moult. Compared to the reed warbler, the stopover duration of the sedge warbler varies more between sites and probably also between years, as the supply of its preferred diet (reed aphids) is spatially and temporally unpredictable but can be superabundant. The short stopover duration of the garden warbler, leading to high overall migration speed, can be related to high fuel deposition rates, probably brought about by a change to an abundant, predictable and long-lasting fruit diet. Within species, stopover duration did not change significantly along the migration route. Hence, an increase of migration speed along the migration route, as suggested in the literature, may be caused by longer flight bouts in the south. However, it remains largely unknown which environmental and possibly endogenous factors regulate stopover duration.