Compensation for lateral drift due to crosswind in migrating European Bee-eaters

Nir Sapir, Nir Horvitz, Martin Wikelski, Roni Avissar, Ran Nathan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Billions of seasonally migrating birds and insects use two principal modes of flight, i.e., flapping and soaring-gliding. Flight mode is known to have strong effects on energy expenditure and speed of migration, yet its influence on the migratory track has rarely been investigated. Using radio telemetry, we studied the effects of crosswind on European Bee-eaters (Merops apiaster) during their spring migration with respect to different flight modes. Flapping, soaring-gliding, and mixed flight in which the birds flapped during gliding were distinguished by radio signals while the birds were flying en route over southern Israel. The regional atmospheric modeling system was applied in high spatial (1 km × 1 km) and temporal (5 min) resolution to estimate winds encountered aloft. We analyzed data from 11 birds that flew over a total distance of 810 km and found that lateral drift due to side wind did not differ among birds engaged in different flight modes. Overall, there was almost no effect of crosswind speed on bird lateral speed, as the regression slope was 0.31 (indicting mild lateral drift) and the regression's R 2 was 0.01. Therefore, we conclude that migrating bee-eaters compensated for crosswind during their spring migration and that this response was not dependent on bird flight mode.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)745-753
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Ornithology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 2014
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Acknowledgments We would like to thank Reuven Yosef, Tzadok Tzemah, William W. Cochran, Itzik Simhayof, Ofir Altstein, David Troupin, Yitzhak Mahrer, Adi Ben-Nun, Erica Kim, and members of the tracking teams and Movement Ecology Laboratory for their assistance. We thank the Israeli Meteorological Service and especially Amos Porat for providing the meteorological measurements and related information. We thank Thomas Alerstam for his constructive comments on a previous version of the manuscript. This work was supported by the US–Israel Binational Science Foundation (grant no. 229/2002 & 124/2004), the Ring Foundation for Environmental Research, and the Robert Szold Fund for Applied Science. N.S. was supported by two Rieger–JNF fellowships and a Fulbright doctoral dissertation travel fellowship.


  • Atmospheric modeling
  • Biotelemetry
  • Bird migration
  • Flight mode
  • Merops apiaster
  • Wind drift

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Animal Science and Zoology


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