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Circadian flight schedules in night-migrating birds caught on migration


Coppack, T; Becker, S F; Becker, P J J (2008). Circadian flight schedules in night-migrating birds caught on migration. Biology Letters, 4(6):619-622.

Abstract

Many species of migratory birds migrate in a series of solitary nocturnal flights. Between flights, they stop to rest and refuel for the next segment of their journey. The mechanism controlling this behaviour has long remained elusive. Here, we show that wild-caught migratory redstarts (Phoenicurus phoenicurus) are consistent in their flight scheduling. An advanced videographic system enabled us to determine the precise timing of flight activity in redstarts caught at a northern European stopover site during their return trip from Africa. Birds were held captive for three days in the absence of photoperiodic cues (constant dim light) and under permanent food availability. Despite the absence of external temporal cues, birds showed clear bimodal activity patterns: intense nocturnal activity alternating with diurnal foraging and resting periods. The onset of their migratory activity coincided with the time of local sunset and was individually consistent on consecutive nights. The data demonstrate that night-migrating birds are driven by autonomous circadian clocks entrained by sunset cues. This timekeeping system is probably the key factor in the overall control of nocturnal songbird migration.

Abstract

Many species of migratory birds migrate in a series of solitary nocturnal flights. Between flights, they stop to rest and refuel for the next segment of their journey. The mechanism controlling this behaviour has long remained elusive. Here, we show that wild-caught migratory redstarts (Phoenicurus phoenicurus) are consistent in their flight scheduling. An advanced videographic system enabled us to determine the precise timing of flight activity in redstarts caught at a northern European stopover site during their return trip from Africa. Birds were held captive for three days in the absence of photoperiodic cues (constant dim light) and under permanent food availability. Despite the absence of external temporal cues, birds showed clear bimodal activity patterns: intense nocturnal activity alternating with diurnal foraging and resting periods. The onset of their migratory activity coincided with the time of local sunset and was individually consistent on consecutive nights. The data demonstrate that night-migrating birds are driven by autonomous circadian clocks entrained by sunset cues. This timekeeping system is probably the key factor in the overall control of nocturnal songbird migration.

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15 citations in Web of Science®
15 citations in Scopus®
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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:07 Faculty of Science > Institute of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies
Dewey Decimal Classification:570 Life sciences; biology
590 Animals (Zoology)
Language:English
Date:2008
Deposited On:12 Jan 2009 14:23
Last Modified:05 Apr 2016 12:39
Publisher:The Royal Society
ISSN:1744-9561
Additional Information:Full text article
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1098/rsbl.2008.0388
Official URL:http://rsbl.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/4/6/619.full.pdf+html
Related URLs:http://rsbl.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/4/6/619.long (Publisher)
PubMed ID:18765352

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