Causes and consequences of facultative sea crossing in a soaring migrant

Paolo Becciu, Shay Rotics, Nir Horvitz, Michael Kaatz, Wolfgang Fiedler, Damaris Zurell, Andrea Flack, Florian Jeltsch, Martin Wikelski, Ran Nathan, Nir Sapir

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Studying the causes and consequences of route selection in animal migration is important for understanding the evolution of migratory systems and how they may be affected by environmental factors at various spatial and temporal scales. One key decision during migration is whether to cross ‘high transport cost’ areas or to circumvent them. Soaring birds may face this choice when encountering waterbodies where convective updrafts are weak or scarce. Crossing these waterbodies requires flying using energetically costly flapping flight, while circumventing them over land permits energetically cheap soaring. We tested how several atmospheric factors (e.g. wind, thermal uplift) and geographic, seasonal and state-related factors (sex and age) affected route selection in migrating white storks Ciconia ciconia. We used 196 GPS tracks of 70 individuals either crossing or circumventing the north-easternmost section of the Mediterranean Sea, over Iskenderun Bay in southern Turkey. We found that westward and southward winds promoted a cross-bay journey in spring and autumn, respectively, acting as tailwinds. Also, overall weaker winds promoted a sea crossing in spring. Sea crossing was associated with flapping flight and higher values of overall dynamic body acceleration and resulted in higher ground speed than travel over land. The combined environmental conditions and the effects of route selection on movement-related energy costs and speed were likely responsible for an increase in the time spent flying and distance travelled of migrating storks that decided to cross the bay during spring. Notably, daily travel distances of spring migrants crossing the bay were 60 km longer than those of land-detouring birds, allowing them to reach their destination faster but likely incurring a higher energetic flight cost. No such benefit was found during autumn. Our findings confirm that atmospheric conditions can strongly affect bird route selection. Consequently, migration timing, speed and movement-related energy expenditure differed considerably between the two migratory seasons and the two route choices, highlighting a time-energy trade-off in the migration of white storks. A free plain language summary can be found within the Supporting Information of this article.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)840-852
Number of pages13
JournalFunctional Ecology
Volume34
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Apr 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank T. Schaffer, H.G. Benecke and W. Sender and his crew in the Drömling Nature Park for their essential help in the fieldwork in Germany, H. Schmid, H. Eggers, G. Sterzer and N. Aljadeff for their help in the data downloading, O. Hatzofe from the Israel Nature and Parks Authority and B. Keeves from the Max Planck Institute of Animal Behavior for their help in retrieving lost transmitters and W. Heidrich and F. Kuemmeth from e-obs GmbH for their dedicated technical support. We would like to thank J. Shamoun-Baranes and an anonymous reviewer that substantially improved the manuscript with their comments and suggestions. We acknowledge the generous funding of DIP grants (DFG) NA 846-1-1 and WI 3576-1-1 to R.N., F.J. and M.W. This study was also supported by the Minerva Center for Movement Ecology granted to R.N. and the Max Planck Institute of Animal Behavior. S.R. was supported by a doctoral bird study scholarship of the Ministry of Science and Technology, Israel.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 British Ecological Society

Keywords

  • bird migration
  • environmental effects
  • flight modes
  • geographical barriers
  • route selection
  • season-related behavioural responses
  • time-energy trade-offs
  • white stork

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics

Fingerprint

Dive into the research topics of 'Causes and consequences of facultative sea crossing in a soaring migrant'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this