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Movement patterns of Common Crossbills Loxia curvirostra in Europe

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Over much of Europe, Common Crossbills Loxia curvirostra depend primarily on the seeds of Norway Spruce Picea abies, and their breeding and movement patterns are governed largely by the cropping patterns of this tree species. Good cone crops occur only every few years in particular areas, but in different years in different areas. The main period of movement is in summer, when the previous year's crop is coming to an end, and a new crop is forming in different areas. In years when the Norway Spruce crop is poor over a wide area, and when Common Crossbills are abundant, they leave the boreal forest in large numbers, and appear as irruptive migrants in southwest Europe, with at least 40 invasions reaching Britain in the 120-year period 1881–2000. On irruptions the main migration axis is from northeast to southwest or west. Recoveries of birds ringed mainly in Germany confirm that these birds do not return to the boreal forest in northern Russia in the same calendar year as their irruption, but do so only in a later calendar year, when a new Norway Spruce crop is becoming available. The findings agree with an earlier interpretation of Common Crossbill movements, but not with an alternative hypothesis that irrupting Common Crossbills return to their region of origin in the same calendar year as the outward movement. Recoveries also suggest that some individual Common Crossbills may have bred in widely separated localities in different years (records up to 3170 km apart), and sometimes in localities far removed from their natal sites (records up to 2950 km apart).
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2006-10-01

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