Publisher: Federation of European Neuroscience Societies and Blackwell Publishing Ltd
We analysed five data sets of night directions of migrating arctic waders ill relation to,winds, recorded by tracking radar and optical range finder, in order to find out if these birds compensate for wind drift, or allow themselves to be drifted by winds. Our purpose was to investigate whether arctic waders use adaptive wind drift strategies or not. The data sets were collected in Siberia (two sets) and Canada during post-breeding (autumn) migration, and in Mauritania and South Sweden during pre-breeding (spring) migration. Both significant drift and compensation effects were found in three of the data sets, Canada, Mauritania and South Sweden. Almost no compensation was found in birds departing in easterly directions from the Siberian tundra (complete drift), while no drift effect was found in birds departing in westerly directions (complete compensation). There were indications that at least some populations of waders may use an adaptive drift strategy consisting of drift at high altitude and/or in high wind speed combined with compensation at low altitude and/or in lower wind speeds, but support for this idea was rather weak and not consistent. Our results were instead more in accordance with the adaptive drift theory that predicts initial drift during the migratory journey, followed by compensation during later stages as the birds are approaching their destinations. Such a strategy implies that arctic waders, at least adult birds, have the capacity of true navigation. A comparison with earlier studies of migrating arctic waders from different parts of the world show that all results so far may be interpreted in accordance with this general adaptive drift strategy An element of non-adaptive drift can, however, not be completely ruled out.