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Optimal bird migration revisited

  • Thomas Alerstam
Publishing year: 2011
Language: English
Pages: 5-23
Publication/Series: Journal für Ornithologie
Volume: 152
Document type: Journal article review
Publisher: Springer

Abstract english

Using optimality perspectives is now regarded as an essential way of analysing and understanding adaptations and behavioural strategies in bird migration. Optimization analyses in bird migration research have diversified greatly during the two recent decades with respect to methods used as well as to topics addressed. Methods range from simple analytical and geometric models to more complex modeling by stochastic dynamic programming, annual routine models and multiobjective optimization. Also, game theory and simulation by selection algorithms have been used. A wide range of aspects of bird migration have been analyzed including flight, fuel deposition, predation risk, stopover site use, transition to breeding, routes and detours, daily timing, fly-and-forage migration, wind selectivity and wind drift, phenotypic flexibility, arrival time and annual molt and migration schedules. Optimization analyses have proven to be particularly important for defining problems and specifying questions and predictions about the consequences of minimization of energy, time and predation risk in bird migration. Optimization analyses will probably also be important in the future, when predictions about bird migration strategies can be tested by much new data obtained by modern tracking techniques and when the importance of new trade-offs, associated with, e.g., digestive physiology, metabolism, immunocompetence and disease, need to be assessed in bird migration research.


  • Biological Sciences
  • Flight
  • Stopover
  • Wind
  • Routes
  • Timing


  • Centre for Animal Movement Research
  • ISSN: 1439-0361
Thomas Alerstam
E-mail: thomas [dot] alerstam [at] biol [dot] lu [dot] se

Professor emeritus

Evolutionary ecology

+46 46 222 37 85


Sölvegatan 37, Lund