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Dynamics of the energy seascape can explain intra-specific variations in sea-crossing behaviour of soaring birds

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Nourani,  Elham
Department of Migration, Max Planck Institute of Animal Behavior, Max Planck Society;

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Safi,  Kamran
Department of Migration, Max Planck Institute of Animal Behavior, Max Planck Society;

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Citation

Nourani, E., Vansteelant, W. M. G., Byholm, P., & Safi, K. (2020). Dynamics of the energy seascape can explain intra-specific variations in sea-crossing behaviour of soaring birds. Biology Letters, 16(1): 20190797. doi:10.1098/rsbl.2019.0797.


Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0005-C502-A
Abstract
Thermal soaring birds extract energy from the atmosphere to achieve energetically low-cost movement. When encountering regions that are energetically costly to fly over, such as open seas, they should attempt to adjust the spatio-temporal pattern of their passage to maximize energy extraction from the atmosphere over these ecological barriers. We applied the concept of energy landscapes to investigate the spatio-temporal dynamics of energy availability over the open sea for soaring flight. We specifically investigated how the 'energy seascape' may shape age-specific sea-crossing behaviour of European honey buzzards, Pernis apivorus, over the Mediterranean Sea in autumn. We found uplift potential over the sea to be the main determinant of sea-crossing distance, rather than wind conditions. Considering this variable as a proxy for available energy over the sea, we constructed the energy seascape for the autumn migration season using 40 years of temperature data. Our results indicate that early-migrating adult buzzards are likely to encounter adverse energy subsidence over the Mediterranean, whereas late-migrating juveniles face less adverse flight conditions, and even conditions conducive to soaring flight. Our study provides evidence that the dynamics of the energy landscape can explain intra-specific variation in migratory behaviour also at sea.