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Effects of seasonal migration on the latitudinal distribution of west Palaearctic bird species

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This paper examines seasonal changes in the latitudinal distribution of birds (excluding seabirds) that breed in the western Palaearctic. Some resident species occupy ranges that span less than 5° of latitude year-round, while some migrant species range over more than 120° of latitude during the course of a year. Among migrant species of land and freshwater habitats, the latitudinal spans of breeding and wintering ranges are correlated. In general, species that breed over a narrow span of latitude also winter over a narrow span of latitude, and vice versa. Among both groups, for any given span of breeding range, species that winter partly in Eurasia and partly in Africa winter over a wider latitudinal span than those that winter entirely within Eurasia or entirely within Africa. Among coastal birds, there is no correlation between the latitudinal spans of breeding and winter areas; most shorebird species breed over a narrow span of (northern) latitude and winter over a wide span distributed linearly along coastlines. Several migration patterns can be distinguished, from complete overlap of breeding and wintering ranges in year-round residents, through partial separation of summer and winter ranges, to complete separation of summer and winter ranges in different geographical regions. In some such species, the gap between breeding and wintering ranges spans up to 55° of latitude (6000 km).

Keywords: Avifauna; distribution; geographical range; migration; western Palaearctic

Document Type: Original Article


Affiliations: Institute of Terrestrial Ecology, Monks Wood, Abbots Ripton, Huntingdon, Cambs PE17 2LS, U.K.

Publication date: January 1, 1997


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