Indexed on: 29 Jul '17Published on: 21 Jul '17Published in: Ecology and Evolution
The phases of the annual cycle for migratory species are inextricably linked. Yet, less than five percent of ecological studies examine seasonal interactions. In this study, we utilized stable hydrogen isotopes to geographically link individual black-and-white warblers (Mniotilta varia) captured during spring migration with breeding destinations to understand a migrant's stopover strategy in the context of other phases of the annual cycle. We found that stopover strategy is not only a function of a bird's current energetic state, but also the distance remaining to breeding destination and a bird's time-schedule, which has previously been linked to habitat conditions experienced in the preceding phase of the annual cycle. Birds in close proximity to their breeding destination accumulate additional energy reserves prior to arrival on the breeding grounds, as reflected by higher migratory condition upon arrival, higher refueling rates measured via blood plasma metabolites, and longer stopover durations compared to birds migrating to breeding destinations farther from the stopover site. However, late birds near their breeding destination were more likely to depart on the day of arrival (i.e., transients), and among birds that stopped over at the site, the average duration of stopover was almost half the time of early conspecifics, suggesting late birds are trying to catch-up with the overall time-schedule of migration for optimal arrival time on the breeding grounds. In contrast, birds with long distances remaining to breeding destinations were more likely to depart on the day of arrival and primarily used stopover to rest before quickly resuming migration, adopting similar strategies regardless of a bird's time-schedule. Our study demonstrates that migrants adjust their en route strategies in relation to their time-schedule and distance remaining to their breeding destination, highlighting that strategies of migration should be examined in the context of other phases of the annual cycle.