Title

Body Mass and Wing Shape Explain Variability In Broad-Scale Bird Species Distributions of Migratory Passerines Along an Ecological Barrier During Stopover

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

10-1-2017

Department

Biological Sciences

School

Biological, Environmental, and Earth Sciences

Abstract

Migrating birds are under selective pressure to complete long-distance flights quickly and efficiently. Wing morphology and body mass influence energy expenditure of flight, such that certain characteristics may confer a greater relative advantage when making long crossings over ecological barriers by modifying the flight range or speed. We explored the possibility, among light (mass <50 g) migrating passerines, that species with relatively poorer flight performance related to wing shape and/or body mass have a lower margin for error in dealing with the exigencies of a long water crossing across the Gulf of Mexico and consequently minimize their travel time or distance. We found that species-mean fat-free body mass and wing tip pointedness independently explained variability among species distributions within ~50 km from the northern coast. In both spring and autumn, lighter (i.e., slower flying) species and species with more rounded wings were concentrated nearest the coastline. Our results support the idea that morphology helps to shape broad-scale bird distributions along an ecological barrier and that migration exerts some selective force on passerine morphology. Furthermore, smaller species with less-efficient flight appear constrained to stopping over in close proximity to ecological barriers, illustrating the importance of coastal habitats for small passerine migrants.

Publication Title

Oecologia

Volume

185

Issue

2

First Page

205

Last Page

212

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