What is it about?

How do birds decide the best time to migrate? We show that Asian Houbara use temperature at their wintering site to inform spring migration departure decisions. Importantly the temperatures between wintering and breeding sites are correlated. The response to local temperature allows individual birds to adapt their migration timing and arrive on their breeding grounds under similar temperature conditions, but different dates, each year. As a result, individual birds will leave earlier in hotter years and leads to adaptation in population level migration timings to annual variation in temperature.

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Why is it important?

The work shows the migratory response to temperature is internally controlled with individuals responding consistently to temperature between years, but being flexible with their migration timing. Birds adapting their migration timing in response to external environmental cues helps explain the widely observed correlation between a warming climate and advancing spring arrival dates of many migratory bird populations.


I hope that this article can help shed some light on the mysteries of bird migration and how they adapt to environmental change.

Robert Burnside
University of East Anglia

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Birds use individually consistent temperature cues to time their migration departure, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, July 2021, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences,
DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2026378118.
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