Environmental factors influencing red knot (Calidris canutus islandica) departure times of relocation flights within the non-breeding period

Evy Gobbens*, Christine E. Beardsworth, Anne Dekinga, Job ten Horn, Sivan Toledo, Ran Nathan, Allert I. Bijleveld

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Deciding when to depart on long-distance, sometimes global, movements can be especially important for flying species. Adverse weather conditions can affect energetic flight costs and navigational ability. While departure timings and conditions have been well-studied for migratory flights to and from the breeding range, few studies have focussed on flights within the non-breeding season. Yet in some cases, overwintering ranges can be large enough that ecological barriers, and a lack of resting sites en route, may resist movement, especially in unfavorable environmental conditions. Understanding the conditions that will enable or prohibit flights within an overwintering range is particularly relevant in light of climate change, whereby increases in extreme weather events may reduce the connectivity of sites. We tracked 495 (n = 251 in 2019; n = 244 in 2020) overwintering red knots (Calidris canutus islandica) in the Dutch Wadden Sea and investigated how many departed towards the UK (on westward relocation flights), which requires flying over the North Sea. For those that departed, we used a resource selection model to determine the effect of environmental conditions on the timing of relocation flights. Specifically, we investigated the effects of wind, rain, atmospheric pressure, cloud cover, and migratory timing relative to sunset and tidal cycle, which have all been shown to be crucial to migratory departure conditions. Approximately 37% (2019) and 36% (2020) of tagged red knots departed on westward relocation flights, indicating differences between individuals' space use within the overwintering range. Red knots selected for departures between 1 and 2.5 h after sunset, approximately 4 h before high tide, with tailwinds and little cloud cover. However, rainfall and changes in atmospheric pressure appear unimportant. Our study reveals environmental conditions that are important for relocation flights across an ecological barrier, indicating potential consequences of climate change on connectivity.

Original languageAmerican English
Article numbere10954
JournalEcology and Evolution
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2024 The Authors. Ecology and Evolution published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.


  • biotelemetry
  • departure decisions
  • movement ecology
  • non-migratory flight
  • shorebirds


Dive into the research topics of 'Environmental factors influencing red knot (Calidris canutus islandica) departure times of relocation flights within the non-breeding period'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this