Journal of Ornithology

, Volume 147, Issue 2, pp 298–309 | Cite as

Timing of nocturnal autumn migratory departures in juvenile European robins (Erithacus rubecula) and endogenous and external factors

  • Victor N. Bulyuk
  • Arseny Tsvey
Original Article


Many passerine medium distance nocturnal migrants take off from stopover sites not only at the beginning of the night, but also in the middle and at the end of the night. In this paper, we tested two explanations for this phenomenon: (1) that departure time is governed by fuel stores, and (2) that departure time is influenced by the weather. The relationship of temporal distribution of migratory nocturnal departures with body condition and weather factors was studied in juvenile European robins (Erithacus rubecula) during autumn migration. The study was done on the Courish Spit on the Baltic Sea in 1997–2003 by retrapping 74 ringed birds in high mist nets during nocturnal migratory departure. Departure time was not related to fuel stores at arrival and departure, stopover duration, fuel deposition rate or progress of the season. Nor did the local weather at departure influence departure time. A possible reason was a large variation in the behaviour of the birds. European robins which made 1-day stopovers arrived and departed during better weather conditions than birds that stopped over for longer periods. In the former cohort, a significant model with four predictors explained 55% of variation in departure time. It is assumed that weather at the night of departure and during the previous night influenced the time of take-offs in these birds. In robins which made long stopovers, departure time is probably governed by their individual endogenous circadian rhythms of activity, which are related to the environment in a complex way.


Control of migration Erithacus rubecula European robin Nocturnal departure Weather and stopover factors 



We are grateful to Nikita Chernetsov for many valuable suggestions which helped us to improve the paper considerably, and for the translation into English. This study would have not been possible without the efforts of many colleagues in the trapping project at Rybachy, and without their help with the high nets. The comments of Julia Delingat and anonymous reviewer helped us greatly to improve the manuscript. This study was supported by the Russian Foundation for Basic Research (grant 04–04–49161). Trapping of the birds complied with the current laws of Russia.


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Copyright information

© Dt. Ornithologen-Gesellschaft e.V. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Biological Station RybachyRybachyRussia

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