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Differences in Speed and Duration of Bird Migration between Spring and Autumn.

  • Cecilia Nilsson
  • Raymond Klaassen
  • Thomas Alerstam
Publishing year: 2013
Language: English
Pages: 837-845
Publication/Series: American Naturalist
Volume: 181
Issue: 6
Document type: Journal article
Publisher: University of Chicago Press

Abstract english

Abstract It has been suggested that birds migrate faster in spring than in autumn because of competition for arrival order at breeding grounds and environmental factors such as increased daylight. Investigating spring and autumn migration performances is important for understanding ecological and evolutionary constraints in the timing and speed of migration. We compiled measurements from tracking studies and found a consistent predominance of cases showing higher speeds and shorter durations during spring compared to autumn, in terms of flight speeds (airspeed, ground speed, daily travel speed), stopover duration, and total speed and duration of migration. Seasonal differences in flight speeds were generally smaller than those in stopover durations and total speed/duration of migration, indicating that rates of foraging and fuel deposition were more important than flight speed in accounting for differences in overall migration performance. Still, the seasonal differences in flight speeds provide important support for time selection in spring migration.


  • Biological Sciences
  • bird migration speed
  • duration of migration
  • flight speed
  • stopover
  • optimal migration
  • timing of migration


  • ISSN: 0003-0147
Thomas Alerstam
E-mail: thomas [dot] alerstam [at] biol [dot] lu [dot] se

Professor emeritus

Evolutionary ecology

+46 46 222 37 85


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