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Adaptive drift and barrier-avoidance by a fly-forage migrant along a climate-driven flyway

  • Vansteelant, Wouter M.G.1, 2
  • Gangoso, Laura1, 3
  • Bouten, Willem2
  • Viana, Duarte S.4
  • Figuerola, Jordi1
  • 1 Estación Biológica de Doñana, CSIC. Cartuja TA-10, Edificio I, Calle Américo Vespucio, s/n, Sevilla, 41092, Spain , Sevilla (Spain)
  • 2 University of Amsterdam, Sciencepark 904, Amsterdam, 1098 XH, The Netherlands , Amsterdam (Netherlands)
  • 3 Complutense University of Madrid, C/ José Antonio Novais 2, Madrid, 28040, Spain , Madrid (Spain)
  • 4 German Center for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv), Deutscher Platz 5e, Halle-Jena-Leipzig, Leipzig, Germany , Leipzig (Germany)
Published Article
Movement Ecology
BioMed Central
Publication Date
Jul 13, 2021
DOI: 10.1186/s40462-021-00272-8
Springer Nature
  • Research


BackgroundRoute choice and travel performance of fly-forage migrants are partly driven by large-scale habitat availability, but it remains unclear to what extent wind support through large-scale wind regimes moulds their migratory behaviour. We aimed to determine to what extent a trans-equatorial fly-forage migrant engages in adaptive drift through distinct wind regimes and biomes across Africa. The Inter-tropical Front (ITF) marks a strong and seasonally shifting climatic boundary at the thermal equator, and we assessed whether migratory detours were associated with this climatic feature. Furthermore, we sought to disentangle the influence of wind and biome on daily, regional and seasonal travel performance.MethodsWe GPS-tracked 19 adult Eleonora’s falcons Falco eleonorae from the westernmost population on the Canary Islands across 39 autumn and 36 spring migrations to and from Madagascar. Tracks were annotated with wind data to assess the falcons’ orientation behaviour and the wind support they achieved in each season and distinct biomes. We further tested whether falcon routes across the Sahel were correlated with the ITF position, and how realized wind support and biome affect daily travel times, distances and speeds.ResultsChanges in orientation behaviour across Africa’s biomes were associated with changes in prevailing wind fields. Falcons realized higher wind support along their detours than was available along the shortest possible route by drifting through adverse autumn wind fields, but compromised wind support while detouring through supportive spring wind fields. Movements across the Sahel-Sudan zone were strongly associated to the ITF position in autumn, but were more individually variable in spring. Realized wind support was an important driver of daily travel speeds and distances, in conjunction with regional wind-independent variation in daily travel time budgets.ConclusionsAlthough daily travel time budgets of falcons vary independently from wind, their daily travel performance is strongly affected by orientation-dependent wind support. Falcons thereby tend to drift to minimize or avoid headwinds through opposing wind fields and over ecological barriers, while compensating through weak or supportive wind fields and over hospitable biomes. The ITF may offer a climatic leading line to fly-forage migrants in terms of both flight and foraging conditions.

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