Biometry and phenology of two sibling Phylloscopus warblers on their circum-Mediterranean migrations

Piotr Zduniak, Reuven Yosef, Keith J. Bensusan, Charles E. Perez, Piotr Tryjanowski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The Mediterranean Sea is known as an ecological barrier for numerous migratory birds flying from European breeding grounds to African wintering sites. Birds generally avoid migration over open sea and fly over land. In the Mediterranean Basin, few land bridges or bottlenecks for migratory birds exist. The narrowest are at the western and eastern extremes: the Strait of Gibraltar and Israel. Comparative studies between these locations are extremely rare to date. Therefore, in order to elucidate the differences between the two flyways, we compared data collected simultaneously for two sister leaf warbler species, the Bonelli’s Warbler complex, Phylloscopus bonelli and Ph. orientalis, at ringing stations in the western Mediterranean Basin Gibraltar, and the eastern Eilat, Israel. Data on biometrics and passage dates of individuals trapped at Gibraltar and Eilat were used, and it was found that mean arrival date of Western Bonelli’s Warblers at Gibraltar was 15 days later than Eastern Bonelli’s Warblers at Eilat. Furthermore, Western Bonelli’s Warblers had shorter wings than Eastern Bonelli’s Warblers. On the other hand, birds in Eilat were in poorer body condition than individuals in Gibraltar. The comparison between geographically distant stop-over sites contributes to furthering our understanding of the development of migration strategies across ecological barriers in sibling species. Our study showed that populations that breed in southwestern Europe migrate through Gibraltar and winter in West Africa are able to accomplish migration in comparatively good body condition. This is in contrast to those that winter in East Africa, migrate through Israel and have to endure the combined challenge of crossing the Sahel, Sahara and Sinai deserts before reaching their breeding grounds across southeast Europe and southwest Asia. Hence, the discrepancies described between the western and the eastern flyway suggest that individuals in the west, in general, migrate shorter distances, have a physiologically less demanding crossing of the North African deserts and appear to stage before their crossing the Strait of Gibraltar, a privilege unavailable to the migrants of the eastern flyway.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)113-127
Number of pages15
Issue number530
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2015


  • Geographical barrier
  • Mediterranean
  • Migration
  • Phylloscopus bonelli
  • Phylloscopus orientalis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Animal Science and Zoology


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