Skip to main content

Estimating flight ranges to unravel migratory strategies: spring migration of continental Black-tailed Godwits Limosa limosa limosa

  • JOSé A. ALVES (a1) and PEDRO M. LOURENçO (a2)

Mapping migratory routes and the distribution of species during migration requires information collected over large scales (e.g. survey data), or the ability to follow specific movements (e.g. using tracking devices), which is often limited to a few individuals. For endangered species, such techniques may be impractical, but developments in flight range modelling allow inferences about migratory routes and potential site occupancy, given a few morphological parameters. We modelled flight range in a rapidly declining population of continental Black-tailed Godwits Limosa limosa limosa departing from a staging site in Iberia during spring migration and found that the vast majority of godwits are able to reach the breeding grounds in a single flight. Contrary to the traditional use of staging sites in France (and Morocco), godwits currently staging in Iberia are predicted to fly directly to The Netherlands and be present at breeding locations earlier than previously expected and observed. Despite harbouring approximately 75% of the total population during spring migration, Iberian staging sites currently lack any legal protection. Our example of the Black-tailed Godwit illustrates the potential of this approach to identify migration strategies and locate staging sites for species of conservation concern for which such information may be virtually absent.

Corresponding author
*Author for correspondence; email:
Hide All
Alerstam, T. and Lindström, A. (1990) Optimal bird migration: the relative importance of time, energy and safety. Pp. 331351 in Gwinner, E., ed. Bird migration: Physiology and ecophysiology. Berlin: Springer-Verlag.
Alves, J. A., Lourenço, P. M., Piersma, T., Sutherland, W. J., and Gill, J. A. (2010) Population overlap and habitat segregation in wintering Black-tailed Godwits. Bird Study 57: 381391.
Alves, J. A., Gunnarsson, T. G., Potts, P. M., Gélinaud, G., Sutherland, W. J. and Gill, J. A. (2012) Overtaking on migration: does longer distance migration always incur a penalty? Oikos 121: 464470.
Atkinson, P. W., Baker, A. J., Bennett, K. A., Clark, N. A., Clark, J. A., Cole, K. B., Dekinga, A., Dey, A., Gillings, S., González, P. M., Kalasz, K., Minton, C. D. T., Newton, J., Niles, N. J., Piersma, T., Robinson, R. A. and Sitters, H. P. (2007) Rates of mass gain and energy deposition in red knot on their final spring staging site is both time- and condition dependent. J. Appl. Ecol. 44: 885895.
Berthold, P. (1993) Bird migration: a general survey. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Birdlife International (2004) Birds in Europe: Population estimates, trends and conservation status. Cambridge, UK: BirdLife International.
Catry, T., Alves, J. A., Andrade, J., Costa, H., Dias, M. P., Fernandes, P., Leal, A., Lourenço, P. M., Martins, R. C., Moniz, F., Pardal, S., Rocha, A., Santos, C. D., Encarnação, V. and Granaderiro, J. P. (2011) Long-term declines of wader populations at the Tagus estuary, Portugal: a response to global or local factors? Bird Conserv. Internatn. 21: 438453.
Dias, S. (2009). Crescimento económico, sustentabilidade e desenvolvimento: o caso de Portugal. [Economic growth, sustainability and development: the case of Portugal]. PhD thesis. Lisbon: Universidade Nova de Lisboa. (In Portuguese).
Elphick, C. S., Taft, O. and Lourenço, P. M. (2010) Management of rice fields for birds during the non-growing season. Waterbirds 33 (sp1): 181192.
Gill, J. A., Langston, H. W., Alves, J. A., Atkinson, P. W., Bocher, P., Vieira, N. C, Crockford, N. J., Gélinaud, G., Groen, N., Gunnarsson, T. G., Hayhow, B., Hooijmeijer, J., Kentie, R., Kleijn, D. Lourenço, P. M., Masero, J. A., Meunier, F., Potts, P. M., Roodbergen, M., Schekkerman, H., Schröder, J. Wymenga, E. and Piersma, T. (2007) Contrasting trends in two Black-tailed Godwit populations: a review of causes and recommendations. Wader Study Group Bull. 114: 4350.
Gunnarsson, T. G., Gill, J. A., Atkinson, P. W., Gélinaud, G., Potts, P. M., Croger, R. E., Gudmundsson, A. G., Appleton, G. F. and Sutherland, W. J. (2006) Population-scale drivers of individual arrival times in migratory birds. J. Anim. Ecol. 75: 11191127.
Hötker, H. (2002) Arrival of Pied Avocets Recurvirostra avosetta at the breeding site: effects of winter quarters and consequences for reproductive success. Ardea 90: 379387.
Jensen, F. P., Béchet, A. and Wymenga, E. (2008) International Single Species Action Plan for the conservation of the Black-tailed Godwit Limosa l. limosa and L. l. islandica. Bonn, Germany: AEWA. (AEWA Technical Series No. 37).
Kuiper, D. P. J., Wymenga, E., Van Der Kamp, J. and Tanger, D. (2006) Wintering areas and spring migration of the Black-tailed Godwit. Bottlenecks and protection along the migration route. Veenwouden, The Netherlands: Altenburg and Wymenga Ecologisch Onderzoek. (AandW Report No. 820).
Leyrer, J., Bocher, P., Robin, F., Delaporte, P., Goulevent, C., Joyeux, E., Meunier, F. and Piersma, T. (2009) Northward migration of Afro-Siberian knots Calidris canutus canutus: high variability in red knot numbers visiting staging sites on the French Atlantic coast, 1979-2009. Wader Study Group Bull. 116: 145151.
Lourenço, P. M. and Piersma, T. (2008) Stopover ecology of Black-tailed Godwits Limosa limosa limosa in Portuguese rice fields: a guide on where to feed in winter. Bird Study 55: 194202.
Lourenço, P. M. and Piersma, T. (2009) Waterbird densities in south European rice fields as a function of rice management. Ibis 151: 196199.
Lourenço, P. M., Kentie, R., Schroeder, J., Alves, J. A., Groen, N. M., Hooijmeijer, J. C. E. W. and Piersma, T. (2010) Phenology, stop-over dynamics and population size of migrating black-tailed godwits Limosa limosa limosa at a key staging area, the Tejo and Sado rice plantations. Ardea 98: 3542.
Lourenço, P. M., Kentie, R., Schroeder, J., Groen, N. M., Hooijmeijer, J. C. E. W. and Piersma, T. (2011) Repeatable timing of northward departure, arrival and breeding in Black-tailed Godwits Limosa l. limosa, but no domino effects. J. Ornithol. 152: 10231032.
Moreau, R. E. (1972) The Palaearctic-African bird migration systems. New York: Academic Press.
Pennycuick, C. J. (2008) Modelling the flying bird. Oxford: Academic Press.
Piersma, T. (1987) Hink, stap of sprong? Reisbeperkingen van arctische steltlopers door voedselzoeken, vetopbouw en vliegsnelheid [Hop, skip or jump? Constraints on migration of arctic waders by feeding, fattening and flight speed] Limosa 60: 185191. (In Dutch).
Sánchez-Guzmán, J. M., Morán, M., Masero, J. A., Corbacho, C., Costillo, E., Villegas, A. and Santiago-Quesada, F. (2007) Identifying new buffer areas for conserving waterbirds in the Mediterranean basin: the importance of the rice fields in Extremadura, Spain. Biodiv. Conserv. 16: 33333344.
Schroder, J., Lourenço, P. M., van der Velde, M., Hooijmeijer, J. C. E. W., Both, C. and Piersma, T. (2008) Sexual dimorphism in plumage and size in Black-tailed Godwits Limosa limosa limosa. Ardea 96: 113.
Shamoun-Baranes, J., Leyrer, J., van Loom, E., Bocher, P., Robin, F., Meunier, F. and Piersma, T. (2010) Stochastic atmospheric assistance and the use of emergency staging sites by migrants. Proc. R. Soc. Lond. B. 277: 15051511.
Sutherland, W. J., Alves, J. A., Amano, T., Chang, C. H., Davidson, N. C., Finlayson, C. M., Gill, J. A., Gill, R. E. Jr., González, P. M., Gunnarsson, T. G., Kleijn, D., Spray, C. J., Székely, T. and Thompson, D. B. A. (2012) A horizon scanning assessment of current and potential future threats to migratory shorebirds. Ibis 154: 663679.
Wymenga, E. and Sikkema, M. (2011) Steltlopers op slaapplaatsen in Fryslân in 2008. Twirre 21: 2235.
Zöckler, C., Syroechkovskiy, E. E. and Atkinson, P. W. (2010) Rapid and continued population decline in the Spoon-billed Sandpiper Eurynorhynchus pygmeus indicates imminent extinction unless conservation action is taken. Bird Conserv. Internatn. 20: 95111.
Zwarts, L., Bijlsma, R. G., van der Kamp, J. and Wymenga, E. (2009) Living on the edge: Wetlands and birds in a changing Sahel. Zeist, The Netherlands: KNNV Publishing.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Bird Conservation International
  • ISSN: 0959-2709
  • EISSN: 1474-0001
  • URL: /core/journals/bird-conservation-international
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 5
Total number of PDF views: 21 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 180 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 19th March 2018. This data will be updated every 24 hours.