Sex- and age-related differences in the timing and body condition of migrating Reed Warblers Acrocephalus scirpaceus and Sedge Warblers Acrocephalus schoenobaenus

Dariusz Jakubas, Katarzyna Wojczulanis-Jakubas
Die Naturwissenschaften 2010, 97 (5): 505-11
The migration strategies of birds may vary strongly between species and also between age and/or sex groups. We studied the autumn migration and body condition of molecularly sexed Reed Warblers Acrocephalus scirpaceus and Sedge Warblers Acrocephalus schoenobaenus (211 and 208 ind., respectively) at a stopover site on Lake Druzno, Northern Poland, in 2008. Immature male Reed Warblers were caught significantly later than females (median dates 9 days later), but in the Sedge Warbler, both sexes of immatures migrated at about the same time. Adult males and females of both species did not differ in their time of migration. Adult and immature males of both species were larger (wing length and body mass) than females. In both species, fat reserves were similar in both sexes of both age classes. Adults of both sexes of Reed and Sedge Warbler were generally caught earlier than immatures. In both species, the body mass and fat reserves of immatures were generally less than in adults. The autumn protogyny of immature Reed Warblers may allow smaller females to limit competition with bigger males during migration and at the wintering grounds. In the Sedge Warbler, which tends to match its migration to peak of occurrence of superabundant food at stopover sites, both sexes gain an advantage from migrating at the same time. Since part of the measured wing length variation in both species was explained by sex differences, temporal trends in wing length recorded at stopover sites should be interpreted with caution.

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