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Does migratory distance affect fuelling in a medium-distance passerine migrant?: results from direct and step-wise simulated magnetic displacements.

  • Mihaela Ilieva
  • Giuseppe Bianco
  • Susanne Åkesson
Publishing year: 2016-02-16
Language: English
Pages: 272-278
Publication/Series: Biology Open
Volume: 5
Document type: Journal article
Publisher: The Company of Biologists Ltd

Abstract english

In birds, fat accumulation before and during migration has been shown to be endogenously controlled and tuned by, among other factors, the Earth's magnetic field. However, our knowledge about the influence of the geomagnetic field on the fuelling in migrating birds is still limited to just a few nocturnally migrating passerine species. In order to study if variations of the magnetic field can also influence the fuelling of both day- and night-migrating passerines, we caught first-year dunnocks (Prunella modularis) and subjected them to three magnetic field conditions simulated by a system of magnetic coils: (1) local geomagnetic field of southern Sweden, (2) magnetic field corresponding to the centre of the expected wintering area, and (3) magnetic field met at the northern limit of the species' breeding distribution. We did not find a difference in mass increase between the birds kept in a local magnetic field and a field resembling their wintering area, irrespectively of the mode of magnetic displacement, i.e. direct or step-wise. However, the dunnocks magnetically displaced north showed a lower rate of fuelling in comparison to the control group, probably due to elevated activity. Compared with previous studies, our results suggest that the fuelling response to magnetic displacements during the migration period is specific to the eco-physiological situation. Future studies need to address if there is an effect of magnetic field manipulation on the level of migratory activity in dunnocks and how widespread the influence of local geomagnetic field parameters is on fuelling decisions in different bird species, which have different migratory strategies, distances and migration history.


  • Behavioral Sciences Biology


  • ISSN: 2046-6390
Susanne Åkesson
E-mail: susanne [dot] akesson [at] biol [dot] lu [dot] se


Evolutionary ecology

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