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Actogram analysis of free-flying migratory birds : new perspectives based on acceleration logging

  • Johan Bäckman
  • Arne Andersson
  • Lykke Pedersen
  • Sissel Sjöberg
  • Anders P Tøttrup
  • Thomas Alerstam
Publishing year: 2017-07
Language: English
Pages: 543-564
Publication/Series: Journal of Comparative Physiology A
Volume: 203
Issue: 6-7
Document type: Journal article
Publisher: Springer

Abstract english

The use of accelerometers has become an important part of biologging techniques for large-sized birds with accelerometer data providing information about flight mode, wing-beat pattern, behaviour and energy expenditure. Such data show that birds using much energy-saving soaring/gliding flight like frigatebirds and swifts can stay airborne without landing for several months. Successful accelerometer studies have recently been conducted also for free-flying small songbirds during their entire annual cycle. Here we review the principles and possibilities for accelerometer studies in bird migration. We use the first annual actograms (for red-backed shrike Lanius collurio) to explore new analyses and insights that become possible with accelerometer data. Actogram data allow precise estimates of numbers of flights, flight durations as well as departure/landing times during the annual cycle. Annual and diurnal rhythms of migratory flights, as well as prolonged nocturnal flights across desert barriers are illustrated. The shifting balance between flight, rest and different intensities of activity throughout the year as revealed by actogram data can be used to analyse exertion levels during different phases of the life cycle. Accelerometer recording of the annual activity patterns of individual birds will open up a new dimension in bird migration research.


  • Evolutionary Biology
  • Zoology
  • Accelerometer
  • Activity
  • Annual cycle
  • Bird migration
  • Flight pattern


  • ISSN: 0340-7594
Thomas Alerstam
E-mail: thomas [dot] alerstam [at] biol [dot] lu [dot] se

Professor emeritus

Evolutionary ecology

+46 46 222 37 85


Sölvegatan 37, Lund


Centre for Animal Movement Research
Evolutionary Ecology, Department of Biology
Ecology building S-223 62 Lund Sweden