Migratory routes, breeding locations and multiple non-breeding sites of Common Whitethroats Curruca communis revealed by geolocators

Claudia Tapia-Harris*, Arin Izang, Will Cresswell

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)
3 Downloads (Pure)


Understanding general migration characteristics and how breeding and non-breeding sites are connected is crucial for predicting the response of long-distance migratory bird populations to environmental changes. We use data collected from six geolocators to describe migratory routes and identify breeding and non-breeding locations, migratory behaviour and differences between spring and autumn migration of Common Whitethroats Curruca communis, an Afro-Palearctic migrant, wintering in Nigeria. Most individuals departed on spring migration in April, following a north-easterly direction, arriving at their breeding grounds across central-eastern Europe (~425,000 km2) in May. Departures from breeding grounds took place between July and August in a south-westerly direction. During spring migration individuals travelled longer distances at faster rates making its overall duration shorter than autumn migration. We suggest that, while Whitethroats can cross the Sahara Desert and Mediterranean Sea in a single flight, they are likely to refuel before and after crossing. Results indicate that Whitethroats undertook loop migration and visited two wintering sites: first in the Sahel, then in Nigeria, where they remained until spring migration. Geolocator results and data from the European Union for Bird Migration’s (EURING) ringing database suggest that Whitethroats have a relatively high migratory spread—individuals from a single non-breeding site breed across a wide area of Europe. Our research is the first to track and describe the complete annual cycle of Whitethroats and one of the few studies to do so for any Afro-Palearctic migrant from non-breeding grounds. We identified the Sahel as an important refuelling and first wintering site indicating its conservation, alongside other stopover sites, is crucial for the species. We believe that changes in this region will have severe effects on a subset of individuals of specific European breeding populations, but these effects will greatly depend on the severity of the changes and at what spatial scale they occur.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0274017
Number of pages20
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2022


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