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The timing of life-cycle events crucially influences fitness, particularly in migratory birds, which visit chains of sites with varying seasonality. Here, we used a proportional hazards model to identify local environmental factors, which a long-distance migrant, the Pink-footed Goose (Anser brachyrhynchus), uses for departure decisions on multiple sites along its spring flyway from Denmark via Norway to Svalbard. Our results not only identified day length, local accumulated temperature, and their interaction as likely candidates, but also (more importantly) showed for the first time that their relevance changes en route. The results suggest that the birds switch on a “migratory program” in their wintering grounds, with day length providing general information on time of the year and integrated temperatures providing information on larger scale climate trends. Thereafter, on the stopover sites, local accumulated temperatures allow the geese to infer information on the advancement of spring, which is then used to adjust the speed of progressing northward.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1953-1960
Issue number7
StatePublished - 2008

ID: 372483