Large-Scale Climatic Patterns Have Stronger Carry-Over Effects than Local Temperatures on Spring Phenology of Long-Distance Passerine Migrants between Europe and Africa

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Earlier springs in temperate regions since the 1980s, attributed to climate change, are thought to influence the earlier arrival of long-distance migrant passerines. However, this migration was initiated weeks earlier in Africa, where the Southern Oscillation, Indian Ocean Dipole, North Atlantic Oscillation drive climatic variability, and may additionally influence the migrants. Multiple regressions investigated whether 15 indices of climate in Africa and Europe explained the variability in timing of arrival for seven trans-Saharan migrants. Our response variable was Annual Anomaly (AA), derived from standardized mistnetting from 1982–2021 at Bukowo, Polish Baltic Sea. For each species, the best models explained a considerable part of the annual variation in the timing of spring’s arrival by two to seven climate variables. For five species, the models included variables related to temperature or precipitation in the Sahel. Similarly, the models included variables related to the North Atlantic Oscillation (for four species), Indian Ocean Dipole (three), and Southern Oscillation (three). All included the Scandinavian Pattern in the previous summer. Our conclusion is that climate variables operating on long-distance migrants in the areas where they are present in the preceding year drive the phenological variation of spring migration. These results have implications for our understanding of carry-over effects.