Seasonal differences in migration patterns of a soaring bird in relation to environmental conditions: a multi-scale approach
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- Mellone, U., De La Puente, J., López-López, P. et al. Behav Ecol Sociobiol (2015) 69: 75. doi:10.1007/s00265-014-1818-4
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Many studies suggest that migratory birds are expected to travel more quickly during spring, when they are en route to the breeding grounds, in order to ensure a high-quality territory. Using data recorded by means of Global Positioning System satellite tags, we analysed at three temporal scales (hourly, daily and overall journey) seasonal differences in migratory performance of the booted eagle (Aquila pennata), a soaring raptor migrating between Europe and tropical Africa, taking into account environmental conditions such as wind, thermal uplift and day length. Unexpectedly, booted eagles showed higher travel rates (hourly speed, daily distance, overall migration speed and overall straightness) during autumn, even controlling for abiotic factors, probably thanks to higher hourly speeds, more straight routes and less non-travelling days during autumn. Tailwinds were the main environmental factor affecting daily distance. During spring, booted eagles migrated more quickly when flying over the Sahara desert. Our results raise new questions about which ecological and behavioural reasons promote such unexpected faster speeds in autumn and not during spring and how events occurring in very different regions can affect migratory performance, interacting with landscape characteristics, weather conditions and flight behaviour.