We tracked three juvenile and 14 adult Marsh Harriers Circus aeruginosus from southern Sweden via satellite to investigate migration strategies. Four individuals were tracked for at least two years. All three juveniles and four of the adults made west-oriented pre-migratory movements well before the onset of autumn migration, and trans-Saharan migrants visited post-migratory stopover areas in tropical Africa. By these movements, the harriers presumably exploit short-term regional variation in food abundance. Autumn and spring migration occurred in a relatively narrow corridor, without distinct differences between sexes in timing, speed, distance, and duration of migration, except that females tended to migrate faster in spring than did males. Juveniles migrated shorter distances than adults, and migration speeds were lower. Spring migration was similar to autumn migration in terms of speed and duration. Juveniles did not cross the Sahara Desert and three birds, one female and two juveniles, wintered in Europe, which is in accordance with a recent increase in the number of (juvenile) Marsh Harriers wintering in northwestern Europe. All birds that crossed the Sahara wintered in tropical West Africa. Harriers showed site fidelity to breeding, wintering and stopover areas. The overall migration speed of Marsh Harriers was similar to that of Ospreys Pandion haliaetus and Honey Buzzards Pernis apivorus, two other trans-Saharan migrants. Ospreys use fly-and-forage migration to promote resulting speed, whereas Honey Buzzards are particularly apt to exploit thermal soaring. How Marsh Harriers balance foraging versus travelling to accomplish their rapid migration speeds remains to be resolved.
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Vol. 96 • No. 2