Azara Blog: Birds allegedly adapting long-distance migration to climate change

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Date published: 2006/07/02

The BBC says:

Birds that migrate long distances have adapted to the world's changing climate in unexpected ways, a study shows.

As the planet warms, and spring arrives earlier in Europe, birds are being forced to change their migration patterns.

It had been thought that birds travelling long distances from Africa to Europe would be unable to adapt.

But a study in Science suggests they have evolved in response to climate change and are returning earlier.

The need for migratory birds to coincide their arrival at breeding grounds with plentiful food supplies is a known evolutionary pressure.

Scientists had assumed that birds travelling short distances would be better able to adapt - and arrive earlier for spring - because of similar climate conditions in their nearby winter grounds.

But researchers in Europe decided to test this theory, using long-term banding and observational data from Scandinavia and Italy dating back to 1980.

The study revealed that long-distance fliers have adjusted their migration habits to arrive earlier in northern Europe in time for the start of spring.

This suggests a more permanent change in migratory behaviour due to climate change than previously thought.

Interesting, but of course it's only one study.

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