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Interspecific Comparison of the Performance of Soaring Migrants in Relation to Morphology, Meteorological Conditions and Migration Strategies

Author:
  • Ugo Mellone
  • Raymond Klaassen
  • Clara Garcia-Ripolles
  • Ruben Liminana
  • Pascual Lopez-Lopez
  • Diego Pavon
  • Roine Strandberg
  • Vicente Urios
  • Michalis Vardakis
  • Thomas Alerstam
Publishing year: 2012
Language: English
Publication/Series: PLoS ONE
Volume: 7
Issue: 7
Document type: Journal article
Publisher: Public Library of Science

Abstract english

Background: Performance of migrating birds can be affected by a number of intrinsic and extrinsic factors like morphology, meteorological conditions and migration strategies. We compared travel speeds of four raptor species during their crossing of the Sahara desert. Focusing the analyses on this region allows us to compare different species under equivalent conditions in order to disentangle which factors affect migratory performance. Methodology/Principal Finding: We tracked raptors using GPS satellite transmitters from Sweden, Spain and Italy, and evaluated their migratory performance at both an hourly and a daily scale. Hourly data (flight speed and altitude for intervals of two hours) were analyzed in relation to time of day, species and season, and daily data (distance between roosting sites) in relation to species, season, day length and tailwind support. Conclusions/Significance: Despite a clear variation in morphology, interspecific differences were generally very small, and did only arise in spring, with long-distance migrants (>5000 km: osprey and Western marsh-harrier) being faster than species that migrate shorter distances (Egyptian vulture and short-toed eagle). Our results suggest that the most important factor explaining hourly variation in flight speed is time of day, while at a daily scale, tailwind support is the most important factor explaining variation in daily distance, raising new questions about the consequences of possible future changes in worldwide wind patterns.

Keywords

  • Biological Sciences

Other

Published
  • ISSN: 1932-6203
Thomas Alerstam
E-mail: thomas [dot] alerstam [at] biol [dot] lu [dot] se

Professor emeritus

Evolutionary ecology

+46 46 222 37 85

E-C225

Sölvegatan 37, Lund

50

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