Orientation of vagrant birds on the Faroe Islands in the Atlantic Ocean

Abstract

Migratory birds are frequently found far outside their normal range but the phenomenon is poorly understood. We used radio telemetry to track individual migratory flights of several species of songbirds on the Faroe Islands, far west of their normal migration route. Birds with expected easterly and south-easterly migration direction departed westwards out over the Atlantic Ocean, indicating that these birds are actively flying in the “wrong” direction and that their occurrence is not caused by wind drift. This is in contrast to the apparently normal south-westerly to easterly departure directions in birds expected to migrate south or southwest.

Zusammenfassung

Orientierung bei verdrifteten Vögeln auf den Faröer Inseln im Atlantik

Zugvögel sind regelmäßig außerhalb ihres normalen Verbreitungsgebiets zu finden, aber dieses Phänomen ist wenig untersucht. Wir verwendeten Radiotelemetrie, um individuelle Flüge bei verschiedenen Singvogelarten auf den Faröer Inseln zu untersuchen, weit westlich der normalen Zugroute. Vögel mit erwartungsgemäß östlicher und süd-östlicher Zugrichtung flogen westwärts hinaus auf den Atlantik, was darauf hindeutet, dass diese Vögel aktiv in die „falsche“Richtung flogen und nicht vom Wind verdriftet wurden. Dies steht im Kontrast zu der anscheinend normalen süd-westlichen bis östlichen Abflugrichtung bei Vögeln, von denen man annimmt, dass sie nach Süden oder Süd-Westen ziehen.

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Acknowledgements

We are grateful to Jens-Kjeld Jensen for catching birds on Nolsoy, and to Dorete Bloch, Aksal Poulsen and several local Faroese for much help during field work on the Faroe Islands. We thank Bill and Jim Cochran for technical help. K.T. was supported by a grant from the Danish Council for Independent Research. This study was carried out in strict accordance with Guidelines to the use of wild birds in research of the Ornithological Council (Fair et al. 2010). Animal work was approved by the Faroese Food and Environmental Agency (J.nr. 2009-00101-43) and the Danish Forest and Nature Agency by permission to the Copenhagen Bird Ringing Centre (J.nr. SN 302–009).

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Correspondence to Kasper Thorup.

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Communicated by H. Mouritsen.

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Details of the experiments, experimental birds and weather conditions. (DOC 360 kb)

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Thorup, K., Ortvad, T.E., Holland, R.A. et al. Orientation of vagrant birds on the Faroe Islands in the Atlantic Ocean. J Ornithol 153, 1261–1265 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10336-012-0883-6

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Keywords

  • Vagrancy
  • Migration
  • Orientation and navigation
  • Songbirds