Proximate causes of avian protandry differ between subspecies with contrasting migration challenges

Heiko Schmaljohann, Christoph Meier, Debora Arlt, Franz Bairlein, Herman Van Oosten, Yolanda E. Morbey, Susanne kesson, Martin Buchmann, Nikita Chernetsov, Robert Desaever, John Elliott, Magnus Hellström, Felix Liechti, Aïda López, John Middleton, Ulf Ottosson, Tomas Pärt, Fernando Spina, Cas Eikenaar

Research output

39 Citations (Scopus)
29 Downloads (Pure)


In many migratory birds, males precede females during migration and arrival at the breeding sites. Three proximate mechanisms are proposed to explain this phenomenon of protandry: males 1) winter closer to breeding sites, 2) start spring migration earlier, and/or 3) migrate faster than females. So far, the relative contribution of these mechanisms to protandry is unknown. The present study investigated the importance of each of the 3 proximate mechanisms of protandry for a songbird migrant wintering in Africa, the northern wheatear (Oenanthe oenanthe). Two subspecies co-occur in Europe on migration, of which the leucorhoa northern wheatears breeding from Iceland to Canada have to cross the North Atlantic, whereas the nominate form breeding in Europe does not face any significant sea barrier. We show that the leucorhoa subspecies had a significantly higher degree of protandry at stopover sites across Europe than the oenanthe subspecies (−6 vs. −2 days). Leucorhoa northern wheatear’s higher degree of protandry
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)321-331
JournalBehavioral Ecology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2016
Externally publishedYes

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