Indexed on: 11 Jun '20Published on: 10 Jun '20Published in: Biology letters
To avoid energy allocation conflicts, birds generally separate breeding, migration and moult during the annual cycle. North American passerines typically moult on the breeding grounds prior to autumn migration. However, some have evolved a moult-migration strategy in which they delay moult until stopping over during autumn migration. Rohwer . (2005) proposed the 'push-pull hypothesis' as an explanation for the evolution of this moult strategy, but it has not been empirically tested. Poor conditions on the breeding grounds at the end of the summer would push birds to depart prior to moult, while productive stopover locations would pull them. We tested for a relationship between moult-migration and breeding grounds aridity as measured by the normalized difference vegetation index. Our results strongly support the 'push' aspect of the push-pull hypothesis and indicate that arid breeding grounds, primarily in western North America, would drive species to evolve stopover moult-migration, although this relationship may depend upon migration distance.