Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 64, Issue 11, pp 1725–1732 | Cite as

Autumn migratory fuelling: a response to simulated magnetic displacements in juvenile wheatears, Oenanthe oenanthe

  • Jannika E. BoströmEmail author
  • Thord Fransson
  • Ian Henshaw
  • Sven Jakobsson
  • Cecilia Kullberg
  • Susanne Åkesson
Original Paper


Recent experiments exposing migratory birds to altered magnetic fields simulating geographical displacements have shown that the geomagnetic field acts as an external cue affecting migratory fuelling behaviour. This is the first study investigating fuel deposition in relation to geomagnetic cues in long-distance migrants using the western passage of the Mediterranean region. Juvenile wheatears (Oenanthe oenanthe) were exposed to a magnetically simulated autumn migration from southern Sweden to West Africa. Birds displaced parallel to the west of their natural migration route, simulating an unnatural flight over the Atlantic Ocean, increased their fuel deposition compared to birds experiencing a simulated migration along the natural route. These birds, on the other hand, showed relatively low fuel loads in agreement with earlier data on wheatears trapped during stopover. The experimental displacement to the west, corresponding to novel sites in the Atlantic Ocean, led to a simulated longer distance to the wintering area, probably explaining the observed larger fuel loads. Our data verify previous results suggesting that migratory birds use geomagnetic cues for fuelling decisions and, for the first time, show that birds, on their first migration, can use geomagnetic cues to compensate for a displacement outside their normal migratory route, by adjusting fuel deposition.


Bird migration Migration programmes Fuelling Magnetic displacement Wheatear Geomagnetic cues 



We are grateful to Christoffer Sjöholm and the personnel at Ottenby Bird Observatory for assistance during capture of the experimental birds and to Heiko Schmaljohann and an anonymous referee for valuable comments on an earlier version of this manuscript. Financial support was received from the Swedish Research Council (to S.Å. and to C.K.). This is report no. 240 from Ottenby Bird Observatory. This is a report from the Centre for Animal Movement Research (CAnMove), with financial support from the Swedish Research Council and Lund University.

The study was carried out with permission from the Swedish Animal Welfare Agency (Linköpings djurförsöksetiska nämnd: permission no. 41-07). The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jannika E. Boström
    • 1
    Email author
  • Thord Fransson
    • 2
  • Ian Henshaw
    • 3
  • Sven Jakobsson
    • 4
  • Cecilia Kullberg
    • 4
  • Susanne Åkesson
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of BiologyLund UniversityLundSweden
  2. 2.Swedish Museum of Natural HistoryBird Ringing CentreStockholmSweden
  3. 3.Department of Physics and Materials ScienceUppsala UniversityUppsalaSweden
  4. 4.Department of ZoologyStockholm UniversityStockholmSweden

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