The migration timing of birds can be controlled by endogenous parameters. However, little is known about how environmental parameters influence the timing of migration and which have the greatest influence at different stages of migration. In this study we identified the main environmental parameters that correlate with the timing of the last stage of spring migration for the barnacle goose, Branta leucopsis. GPS tracking data were registered for 12 barnacle geese (in 2008–2010) on the Russian flyway and 17 (2006–2010) on the Svalbard flyway. A linear mixed-effect model and principal component analysis were used to retrieve statistically significant parameters. Departure date from the last staging site on the Russian flyway was related to daylength, temperature, cloud cover and barometric pressure, and on the Svalbard flyway to a food availability index and daylength. Arrival date at the Russian breeding site was related to cloud cover and barometric pressure en route and the food availability index and temperature at the breeding site. For the Svalbard flyway, temperature and cloud cover en route and the food availability index, wind, temperature and cloud cover at the breeding site were significantly related to arrival date at the breeding site. Our study highlights the importance of environmental parameters including food, weather and daylength for the last stage of goose spring migration. We found different priorities in selecting the environmental parameters in migration timing decisions between Svalbard and Russian barnacle geese which fly over sea and over land, respectively. Identifying the key factors that act as cues during the final stages of spring migration is important when assessing the possible effects of climate change on the timing of migration for a highly selective herbivore such as the barnacle goose.
- weather parameters