Magnetic storms disrupt nocturnal migratory activity in songbirds

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Birds possess a magnetic sense and rely on the Earth's magnetic field for orientation during migration. However, the geomagnetic field can be altered by solar activity at relative unpredictable intervals. How birds cope with the temporal geomagnetic variations caused by solar storms during migration is still unclear. We addressed this question by reproducing the effect of a solar storm on the geomagnetic field and monitoring the activity of three songbird species during autumn migration. We found that only the European robin reduced nocturnal migratory restlessness in response to simulated solar storms. At the same time, robins increased activity during early morning. We suggest that robins reduced activity at night when the perception of magnetic information would be strongly disrupted by temporal variations of the magnetic field, to extend their migration during daytime when several visual cues become available for orientation. The other two species, chiffchaff and dunnock, showing low or no nocturnal migratory activity, did not respond to the solar storm by changing activity.

Details

Authors
Organisations
External organisations
  • Institute of Biodiversity and Ecosystem Research, BAS
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Evolutionary Biology

Keywords

  • animal navigation, bird migration, compass orientation, geomagnetic field, magnetic compass, migratory restlessness
Original languageEnglish
JournalBiology letters
Volume15
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2019 Mar 29
Publication categoryResearch
Peer-reviewedYes

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