Compensation for wind drift by migrating swifts

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


We investigated the orientation in relation to wind of common swifts, Apus apus, during nocturnal spring and autumn migration. Swifts are highly adapted to a life in the air, showing wind-dependent orientation during nocturnal roosting flights, and may be expected to be more efficient in their wind drift/compensation behaviour than nocturnal passerine migrants, which are usually subjected to full or partial wind drift. A tracking radar at Lund in southern Sweden was used to record the orientation of common swifts (identified by their characteristic radar echo signature) on nocturnal migration flights and to measure wind conditions at the altitudes at which the birds were flying. Comparing track and heading directions under easterly and westerly winds revealed that the swifts shifted their heading distinctly into the wind, with the result that track directions were similar under the different wind conditions. As this pattern of complete compensation for drift from cross-winds occurred during both spring and autumn migration, there were no indications of differences between age classes. In addition, we found an effect of side-winds on equivalent airspeeds, with swifts increasing their airspeed with increasing wind speed. Such a response has been theoretically predicted as part of an optimal behaviour for counteracting wind drift but has hereto not been empirically demonstrated. There was also a positive correlation between overall wind speed and equivalent airspeed, making it difficult to interpret whether the swifts respond to the total wind speed rather than specifically to the side-wind effect. Our results suggest that important differences may exist between species in their capacities to orient in relation to the wind and that the swift may be particularly efficient in adjusting heading direction and airspeed to obtain complete compensation for wind drift during high-altitude nocturnal migratory flights. (C) 2010 The Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.


Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Biological Sciences


  • wind, tracking radar, side-wind, orientation, migration, drift, compensation, Apus apus, common swift
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)399-404
JournalAnimal Behaviour
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2010
Publication categoryResearch

Related projects

Niklas Larsson, Atticus Pinzon-Rodriguez, Arne Hegemann, Brianne Addison, Charlie Cornwallis, Giuseppe Bianco, INGRID SASSENHAGEN, Jerker Vinterstare, Julian Melgar, Julio Neto, Lasse Jakobsen, Mikael Ekvall, Mihaela Ilieva, Natalia Annenkova, Pallavi Chauhan, Sylvie Tesson, Yannis Vardanis, Catherine Tayleur, Emily Baird, Olle Lind, Jakob Löndahl, Tina Santl-Temkiv, Anders Hedenström, Åke Lindström, Anders Nilsson, Bengt Hansson, Dennis Hasselquist, Erik Svensson, Henrik Smith, Helena Westerdahl, Jan-Åke Nilsson, Johan Bäckman, Katarina Hedlund, Lars Råberg, Maria Ingimarsdottir, Martin Green, Maria Sandell, Martin Stjernman, Nils Kjellén, Ola Olsson, Rachel Muheim, Richard Ottvall, Staffan Bensch, Xiuhong Yang, Sara Snogerup-Linse, Heiner Linke, Mikkel Brydegaard Sorensen, Patrik Lundin, Sune Svanberg, Zuguang Guan, Ann-Sofie Albrekt, Anders Hargeby, Anders Persson, Christer Brönmark, Emma Kritzberg, Karin Rengefors, Lars-Anders Hansson, Olof Berglund, Wilhelm Granéli, Alice Nicolle, Ben Chapman, Christian Skov, Johan Ahlgren, Jakob Brodersen, Jessica von Einem, Kaj Hulthén, Kelly Gutseit, Karen Lebret, Lynn Ranåker, MATTIAS EKVALL, Mercy Lard, MIKAEL JÖNSSON, PER HALLGREN, Peter Ljungberg, Samuel Hylander, Tony Fagerberg, Therese Jephson, Tomas Johansson, Bjorn Canback, Bengt Danielsson, Christoffer Johansson, Emma Ådahl, Florian Muijres, Jörgen Ripa, Melissa Bowlin, Niclas Jonzén, Per Henningsson, Roger Härdling, Andreas Nord, Arzu Gursoy, Asghar Muhammad, Anna Nilsson, Anna Runemark, Barbara Tschirren, Cecilia Nilsson, Håkan Karlsson, Irene Pala, Juliana Dänhardt, Johan Nilsson, Jens Rydell, Jonas Waldenström, Keith Larson, Kristina Karlsson, Kristin Scherman, Mikael Åkesson, Martin Andersson, Maja Tarka, Maren Wellenreuther, Max Lundberg, Miriam Liedvogel, Maj Rundlöf, Martin Wintersparv Stervander, Machteld Verzijden, Olof Hellgren, Raymond Klaassen, Roine Strandberg, Susanne Åkesson, SANDRA SKÖLD CHIRIAC, Sophia Engel, Sissel Sjöberg, Sara Naurin, Thomas Alerstam, Tom J Evans, Torbjörn von Schantz, Ulf Ottosson, Marie Dacke & Helena Osvath


Project: Research

View all (1)