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Alternate non-stop migration strategies of pied flycatchers to cross the Sahara desert

14 April 2016
Photo: Roef Mulder

Each year more than two billion songbirds cross the Sahara, but how they perform this formidable task is largely unknown. Using geolocation tracks from 27 pied flycatchers, a nocturnally migrating passerine, Janne Ouwehand and Christiaan Both show that most birds made diurnal flights in both autumn and spring. These diurnal flights were estimated to be part of non-stop flights of mostly 40–60 h. In spring, birds flew across the Sahara, while autumn migration probably circumpassed part of the desert, through a long oversea flight. Their data contradict claims that passerines cross the Sahara by intermittent flight and daytime resting. The frequent occurrence of long non-stop flights to cross the desert shows migrants' physiological abilities and poses the question why this would not be the general migration strategy to cross the Sahara.

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  • Contact: PhD Janne Ouwehand, Conservation Ecology Group, or: prof. Christiaan Both, Conservation Ecology Group
Last modified:13 October 2022 08.55 a.m.
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