Geographical and temporal flexibility in the response to crosswinds by migrating raptors.

Raymond Klaassen, Mikael Hake, Roine Strandberg, Thomas Alerstam

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

90 Citations (SciVal)


Wind and ocean currents may potentially have important effects on travelling animals, as an animal which does not respond to lateral flow will be drifted from its intended direction of movement. By analysing daily movements of migrating ospreys Pandion haliaetus and marsh harriers Circus aeruginosus, as recorded by satellite telemetry, in relation to global wind data, we showed that these raptors allow on average 47 per cent drift. Furthermore, our analyses revealed significant geographical and temporal variation in the response to crosswinds. During some parts of the migration, the birds drifted and in other parts they compensated or even overcompensated. In some regions, the response of marsh harriers depended on the wind direction. They drifted when the wind came from one side and (over)compensated when the wind came from the opposite side, and this flexible response was different in different geographical regions. These results suggest that migrating raptors modulate their response to crosswinds at different places and times during their travels and show that individual birds use a much more varied repertoire of behavioural responses to wind than hitherto assumed. Our results may also explain why contrasting and variable results have been obtained in previous studies of the effect of wind on bird migration.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1339-1346
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Publication statusPublished - 2011

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Biological Sciences


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