The migration strategies of smaller, south European, Mediterranean birds are less well known than those of northern and central European birds. We used geolocators to map individual spatio-temporal migration schedules of three species breeding in the Iberian Peninsula: the White-rumped Swift Apus caffer, Rufous-tailed Scrub-robin Cercotrichas galactotes and Bluethroat Cyanecula svecica. The three species crossed the Sahara desert with a westward detour, to reach West African winter grounds in the Sahel (Bluethroats and Scrub-robins) or the rainforest belt (Swifts). Despite the proximity of the breeding grounds to the desert barrier, all but one individual stopped over before the desert crossing during autumn migration. After spending six months on average in sub-Saharan Africa with variable itinerancy, spring migration was faster overall and more direct than in autumn. Autumn migration was of similar duration to that found in related northern European migrants and therefore slower in southern birds. Spring migration was completed in less time than in the northern migrants (data only for Swifts and Scrub-robins). The shorter migration distance and proximity to the barrier potentially allow south European trans-Saharan migrants to migrate more slowly than northern migrants but only when less time-constrained in autumn.
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