Migrant Landbird Study Group

Promoting collaborative research for migratory landbirds across flyways

Hakan Karaardic from Alanya Alaaddin Keykubat University in Turkey provides insight into three studies he is engaged in. Please read on to learn about the Alpine Swift geolocator project, how to sort out the subspecies of Barn Swallow in Turkey and ringing birds with students and their teachers. Migration is the linking pin.

 1) East Mediterranean Migration Routes of Alpine Swift (Apus melba) by Using Light-level Geolocator
Tracking the movements of migratory birds between their breeding and non-breeding areas is critical for understanding their life history, factors that influence population abundance and for developing effective conservation and management plans. Light level geolocators have now allowed to track the migration routes of birds weighing <100 gr. Alpine swift (Apus melba) is a 90-g migrant insectivorous bird. It is socially monogamous and reproduces in colonies of a few to several hundred pairs located in holes of cliffs or tall buildings. We aimed with this study to determine the eastern migration routes, migration behavior and the overwintering areas of Alpine Swift colony in Southern Turkey.

The study area is Pırasalı island (36°20'06'' N, 30°31'57'' E), located at Adrasan, about 90 km far from Antalya, southern Turkey. This tiny (2 ha) rocky island has very important breeding sites for Alpine swifts, over 2000 pairs nesting. We have started this work in 2013 as a collaboration work with Swiss Ornithology Institute (SOI), Switzerland. SOI supported the geolocators. Field work starts with the breeding activity of the population in second half of April and finish after attaching loggers in October. We monitor 150-200 nests (nearly 10% of the population) on the island every year. Twice a week we check all the nests. Second half of May, we start to catch adult birds from their nests. Daytime capture of birds from their nests does not allow us to get assessable numbers, so we capture birds generally during night. Being on the island before sunset and after sunrise we can experience the incredible flying dance of the colony, almost 2000 birds show their crazy flights.

2) Is Southern Turkey a contact zone of two Barn swallow subspecies (Hirundo rustica rustica and H. rustica transitiva)?
Research across 22 European and North African populations of H. r. rustica demonstrated consistent directional selection for elongated tail feathers (streamers). In contrast, correlational and experimental work suggests that H. r. transitiva females in Israel select males based on the combination of two sexual traits: elongated tail feathers and dark melanin-based feather plumage. In contrast to sexual signaling divergence, there is no known divergence in feeding ecology within the subspecies complex. However, there are differences in migratory behavior, as H. r. rustica are long distance migrants to sub-Saharan Africa, while H. r. transitiva are considered residents in the eastern Mediterranean. Thus, divergence in sexual signals as a result of differential targets of female preference may explain apparent morphological and genetic differences among these subspecies. Female preferences may also be important for maintaining population structure between these subspecies if divergent signals are linked to locally adapted phenotypes (social or migratory) and lead to assortative mating based on these phenotypes.

Before investigating this hypothesis, we need to learn if southern Turkey is a contact zone of two Barn swallow subspecies. We predicted our Turkish population would be more phenotypically similar to widely distributed European populations than H. r. transitiva. Indeed, males from Turkey had high Body Brightness, similar to the two European populations; however, streamers were significantly shorter and more similar to the Israel population. Throat Brightness was significantly different and intermediate to the divergent colors of Romania and the Czech Republic, and was not different from Israel. These results seem to indicate that the Turkish population is either composed of assortatively breeding H. r. transitiva and H. r. rustica, or an admixture of these (See in details Wilkins, Karaardic et al. 2016, Journal of Evolutionary Biology). Migration behavior of these populations will be the key to understand this.

The study area is Boğazkent (Lat 36.857, Lon 31.160), about 45km far eastern Antalya, southern Turkey. Field work starts with the breeding activity of the population in second half of March and finishes in August.

3) Bird Ringing Program at Boğazkent and Nature Conservation Education for Secondary School Students
We start this new study in 2017, in collaboration with Serik Municipality and General Directorate of Nature Conservation and National Parks. In this work, we monitor bird migration in southern Turkey by using ringing and observation. Also, we host students with their teachers at ringing stations. We talk about why we should protect our environment and all living organisms. The practice of ringing different bird species will make students aware of their migration stories.

Alanya Alaaddin Keykubat University, Education Faculty, Department of Math and Science Education, Alanya, Turkey
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