Sex-differentiated migration patterns, protandry and phenology in North European songbird populations

This study aims to investigate causes and mechanisms controlling protandrous migration patterns (the earlier breeding area arrival of males relative to females) and inter-sexual differences in timing of migration in relation to the recent climate-driven changes in phenology. Using standardised ringing data from a single site for eight North European migratory passerines collected throughout 22 years, we analysed sex-differentiated migration patterns, protandry and phenology of the entire populations. Our results show protandrous patterns for the first as well as later arriving individuals for all studied species. Males show more synchronous migration patterns compared to females and, hence, first arriving females followed males more closely than later arriving individuals. However, we found no inter-sexual differences in arrival trends as both sexes advance spring arrival over time with the largest change for the first arriving individuals. These findings seem in support of the ‘‘mate opportunity’’ hypothesis, as the arrival of males and females is strongly coupled and both sexes seem to compete for early arrival. Changes in timing of arrival in males and females as a response to climatic changes may influence subsequent mating decisions, with subsequent feedbacks on population dynamics such as reproductive success and individual fitness. However, during decades of consistent earlier spring arrival in all phases of migration we found no evidence of inter-sexual phenological differences.