While some migratory birds perform non-stop flights of over 11 000 km, many species only spend around 15% of the day in flight during migration, posing a question as to why flight times for many species are so short. Here, we test the idea that hyperthermia might constrain flight duration (FD) in a short-distance migrant using remote biologging technology to measure heart rate, hydrostatic pressure and body temperature in 19 migrating eider ducks (Somateria mollissima), a short-distance migrant. Our results reveal a stop-and-go migration strategy where migratory flights were frequent (14 flights day−1) and short (15.7 min), together with the fact that body temperature increases by 1°C, on average, during such flights, which equates to a rate of heat storage index (HSI) of 4°C h−1. Furthermore, we could not find any evidence that short flights were limited by heart rate, together with the fact that the numerous stops could not be explained by the need to feed, as the frequency of dives and the time spent feeding were comparatively small during the migratory period. We thus conclude that hyperthermia appears to be the predominant determinant of the observed migration strategy, and suggest that such a physiological limitation to FD may also occur in other species.
This article is part of the themed issue ‘Moving in a moving medium: new perspectives on flight’.
One contribution of 17 to a theme issue ‘Moving in a moving medium: new perspectives on flight’.
- Accepted July 4, 2016.
- © 2016 The Author(s)
Published by the Royal Society. All rights reserved.