Pacific Barrow’s Goldeneye refine migratory phenology in response to overwintering temperatures and annual snow melt

By: , and 



Timing of seasonal bird migrations is broadly determined by internal biological clocks, which are synchronized by photoperiod, but individuals often refine their migratory timing decisions in response to external factors. Using 11 years of satellite telemetry data, we show that Pacific Barrow’s Goldeneye (Bucephala islandica), at higher latitudes, initiated spring and molt migrations later and fall migration earlier than individuals at lower latitudes. We further show that individuals refined migratory timing in response to interannual variation in environmental conditions. Individual Barrow’s Goldeneye initiated spring migration earlier in years with warmer springs at their overwintering locations and concluded spring migration earlier in years with earlier annual snow melt on their breeding grounds. Because individuals respond to conditions both where they initiate and where they conclude spring migration, our results suggest that Barrow’s Goldeneye update their migratory decisions en route. For all three migrations in their annual cycle, birds delayed initiating migration if they had been captured and tagged prior to that migration. Birds that initiated migration late for their latitude were less likely to include a stopover and completed that migration faster, partially compensating for delayed departures. Our results are consistent with the hypothesis that Barrow’s Goldeneye use a combination of endogenous cues and environmental cues in migratory decision making. Sensitivity to environmental cues suggests that Barrow’s Goldeneye may have behavioural plasticity that is adaptive when faced with ongoing climate change.

Study Area

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Pacific Barrow’s Goldeneye refine migratory phenology in response to overwintering temperatures and annual snow melt
Series title Ornithology
DOI 10.1093/ornithology/ukad024
Volume 140
Issue 3
Year Published 2023
Language English
Publisher Oxford Academic Press
Contributing office(s) Alaska Science Center Ecosystems
Description ukad024, 13 p.
Country Canada, United States
State Alaska, Alberta, British Columbia
City Juneau, Kitimat
Other Geospatial Cardinal Lake, Kachemak Bay, Indian Arm, Prince William Sound, Riske Creek
Google Analytic Metrics Metrics page
Additional publication details