Changing migratory behaviors and climatic responsiveness in birds

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

2 Citations (Scopus)


Change of avian migratory behavior is one of the best-studied phenomena presumably associated with contemporary climate change, yet to what degree these behavioral changes represent responses to climate warming is still controversial. We investigated interspecific variation in migratory behavior over three decades at a Central-European site, testing whether the type and extent of behavioral change are predicted by species' responsiveness to short-term variation in large-scale climatic indices. We found that species with earlier arrivals at the breeding grounds after winters with higher North-Atlantic Oscillation indices were more likely to overwinter at the study site. This behavior was more frequent in the second half than in the first half of the study, although the extent of this change was not predicted quantitatively by short-term climatic responsiveness. Overwintering was more prevalent in short-distance migrants with more complex diets and larger population sizes. Furthermore, species arriving earlier after summers with higher Sahel rainfall indices increasingly advanced their first arrival date, whereas species that do not molt in the pre-breeding season increased their frequency of overwintering in more recent years. Our results demonstrate that interspecific variation in short-term climatic responsiveness predicts long-term changes in migratory behaviors, supporting that the latter are responses to climate change. Furthermore, the type of response (advancing arrivals or overwintering near the breeding grounds) depends on life history. Finally, we found that overwintering behavior during the study period predicted subsequent trends in population size, suggesting that information on temporal changes in migratory strategy may help conservation planning and risk assessment.

Original languageEnglish
Article number89
JournalFrontiers in Ecology and Evolution
Issue numberAPR
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • Hortobágy
  • Migration phenology
  • Overwinter residency
  • Population trends
  • Waterbirds

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Changing migratory behaviors and climatic responsiveness in birds'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

  • Cite this