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To what extent do environmental factors affect the long-distance nocturnal post-fledging movements of the Reed Warbler?

Bulyuk, Victor N., Mukhin, Andrey, Kishkinev, Dmitry, Kosarev, Vladislav
Journal für Ornithologie 2009 v.150 no.2 pp. 339-350
Acrocephalus, air, birds, body condition, cloud cover, environmental factors, habitats, juveniles, migratory behavior, molting, wind
We studied the effects of weather and the lunar cycle on long-distance nocturnal pre-migratory flights of Reed Warblers (Acrocephalus scirpaceus). Noturnal tape luring was used to capture the birds, and the study was carried out in a habitat atypical of this species on the Courish Spit (southeastern Baltic) between1999 and 2002. A total of 443 juvenile Reed Warblers were captured during 120 nights of trapping. Based on data on the moult and body condition of the birds, it was possible to identify 163 individuals as being on post-fledging movements. More than half of the birds (54.0%) were captured at the end of night during the nautical and civil twilight period; the remaining individuals were caught during the astronomical twilight period and darkest periods of night. Many birds performed pre-migratory flights in the middle of the night, the period during which a large part of the moon was visible. We suggest that the increased visibility under the full moon may provide conditions in which Reed Warblers increase the distance or intensity of nocturnal post-fledging movements. During the entire course of the night, the birds generally preferred to fly under rainless conditions, limited cloud cover and/or in still air. The birds performed flights under winds stronger than 2 m s⁻¹ when the wind was blowing along the axis of the spit. We also suggest that the birds generally fly along the spit. We found a weak but significant relationship between the numbers of Reed Warblers captured during post-fledging movements and the individual weather parameters and their interaction. Our data suggest that endogenous stimuli rather than weather parameters or lunar cycle phase determine the decision of Reed Warblers to undertake pre-migratory long-distance flights at night.