We investigated the patterns of nocturnal bird migration in autumn 1998 at a coastal site on the Falsterbo peninsula in south-western Sweden, by means of a passive infrared device. In total 17 411 flight paths, including track direction and altitude, of migrating birds were recorded for 68 nights from August to October. Mean migratory traffic rate per night varied between 6 and 6618 birds km1 h1, with an average of 1319 birds km1 h1. Migration at Falsterbo showed a similar seasonal pattern to that reported for central Europe, with pronounced peaks of migration and intermittent periods with relatively low migratory intensities. Weather factors explained two thirds of the variance in the intensity of bird migration. During nights with intense migration, associated with weak winds, the mean track direction was close to that in central western Europe (225°). Birds usually maintained a constant heading independent of wind directions and, in consequence, were drifted by the wind. The mean orientation clearly differed from that of the nearest coastline, suggesting that the birds did not use the topography below to compensate for wind drift.