Individuality in bird migration: routes and timing

Yannis Vardanis, Raymond Klaassen, Roine Strandberg, Thomas Alerstam

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The exploration of animal migration has entered a new era with individual-based tracking during multiple years. Here, we investigated repeated migratory journeys of a long-distance migrating bird, the marsh harrier Circus aeruginosus, in order to analyse the variation within and between individuals with respect to routes and timing. We found that there was a stronger individual repeatability in time than in space. Thus, the annual timing of migration varied much less between repeated journeys of the same individual than between different individuals, while there was considerable variation in the routes of the same individual on repeated journeys. The overall contrast in repeatability between time and space was unexpected and may be owing to strong endogenous control of timing, while short-term variation in environmental conditions (weather and habitat) might promote route flexibility. The individual variation in migration routes indicates that the birds navigate mainly by other means than detailed route recapitulation based on landmark recognition.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)502-505
JournalBiology letters
Publication statusPublished - 2011

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Zoology
  • Behavioral Sciences Biology

Free keywords

  • avian migration
  • satellite-tracking
  • repeatability
  • routes
  • timing


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