Wind effects on the migration routes of trans-Saharan soaring raptors

Vidal-Mateo, J., Mellone, U., López-López, P., De La Puente, J., García-Ripollés, C., Bermejo, A. & Urios, V. (2016). Wind effects on the migration routes of trans-Saharan soaring raptors: geographical, seasonal, and interspecific variation. Current Zoology 62: 89–97. doi: 10.1093/cz/zow008 (Open Access)

Abstract:

Wind is among the most important environmental factors shaping birds’ migration patterns. Birds must deal with the displacement caused by crosswinds and their behavior can vary according to different factors such as flight mode, migratory season, experience, and distance to goal areas. Here we analyze the relationship between wind and migratory movements of three raptor species which migrate by soaring–gliding flight: Egyptian vulture Neophron percnopterus, booted eagle Aquila pennata, and short-toed snake eagle Circaetus gallicus. We analyzed daily migratory segments (i.e., the path joining consecutive roosting locations) using data recorded by GPS satellite telemetry. Daily movements of Egyptian vultures and booted eagles were significantly affected by tailwinds during both autumn and spring migrations. In contrast, daily movements of short-toed eagles were only significantly affected by tailwinds during autumn migration. The effect of crosswinds was significant in all cases. Interestingly, Egyptian vultures and booted eagles showed latitudinal differences in their behavior: both species compensated more frequently at the onset of autumn migration and, at the end of the season when reaching their wintering areas, the proportion of drift segments was higher. In contrast, there was a higher drift at the onset of spring migration and a higher compensation at the end. Our results highlight the effect of wind patterns on the migratory routes of soaring raptors, with different outcomes in relation to species, season, and latitude, ultimately shaping the loop migration patterns that current tracking techniques are showing to be widespread in many long distance migrants.

Response of three migratory raptors to crosswinds in spring (upper panel) and autumn (lower panel). Egyptian vulture’s routes are shown in (A) and (D); booted eagle’s routes in (B) and (E); and short-toed snake eagle’s routes in (C) and (F). Colors indicate drift (green), compensation (blue), and overcompensation (orange) in daily segments

Response of three migratory raptors to crosswinds in spring (upper panel) and autumn (lower panel). Egyptian vulture’s routes are shown in (A) and (D); booted eagle’s routes in (B) and (E); and short-toed snake eagle’s routes in (C) and (F). Colors indicate drift (green), compensation (blue), and overcompensation (orange) in daily segments

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