Mechanisms driving changes in migratory behaviour on long lived birds in response to global environmental change


Aldina Franco (UEA), David Richardson (UEA)


The migratory patterns of animals are changing in response to global environmental change. Previously wholly migratory species wintering in Sub-Saharan Africa now have resident populations in Southern Europe. The causes of these changes are not fully established but both climate change and increased winter food availability have been proposed as possible factors. White storks are an iconic species that took advantage of a reliable and abundant food source at land fill sites. Resident birds feed, almost exclusively, in land fill sites during the winter period. Due to the implementation of EU regulations, many landfill sites are due close during 2014, providing the experimental setting for this project. This project will explore the consequences of a dramatic reduction in food availability for resident birds, by tracking individual birds using state of the art GPS/GSM solar panel loggers that provide high temporal and spatial resolution.

Hypothesis to be tested

We will test if a dramatic reduction in winter food availability differentially affect individual migratory behaviour and mortality depending on sex, foraging site selection and body condition.

Storks feeding

Storks feeding on domestic waste

ELSA project

We will test if individual capacity to respond to environmental change is affected by sex, foraging site selection and body condition (corresponding to each of the hypotheses tested). By analysing the blood samples of individuals with different behavioural responses (some individuals are likely to have more capacity to adapt their migratory behaviour than others) we will examine if the adaptive capacity of individuals is reflected in their genome. White Storks are a good study system because they are a long-lived species likely to have adaptable behaviour because they experience variation in environmental conditions through their lives. This project has the potential to unravel some of the mechanisms underlying bird migratory behaviour and to be relevant for conservation and to the general public.

Stork movement daily updates

This project uses state-of-the-art GPS/GSM loggers to track the movement of the storks. The data is updated daily and can be seen at: . This page also contains more details of the project, methods and project team.

stork with tracker 2

Stork with GPS tracker

Earlham institute
Quadram Institute Bioscience
John Innes Centre
The Sainsbury Laboratory
University of East Anglia

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