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Adaptations to Migration in Birds: Behavioural Strategies, Morphology and Scaling Effects

Anders Hedenström
Philosophical Transactions: Biological Sciences
Vol. 363, No. 1490, Adaptation to the Annual Cycle (Jan. 27, 2008), pp. 287-299
Published by: Royal Society
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/20208430
Page Count: 13
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Adaptations to Migration in Birds: Behavioural Strategies, Morphology and Scaling Effects
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Abstract

The annual life cycle of many birds includes breeding, moult and migration. All these processes are time and energy consuming and the extent of investment in any one may compromise the others. The output from breeding is of course the ultimate goal for all birds, while the investment in moult and migration should be selected so that lifetime fitness is maximized. In particular, long-distance migrants breeding at high latitudes face severe time pressures, which is a probable reason why natural selection has evolved efficient behaviours, physiological and morphological adaptations allowing the maximum possible migration speed. Optimal migration theory commonly assumes time minimization as an overall strategy, but the minimization of energy cost and predation risk may also be involved. Based on these assumptions, it is possible to derive adaptive behaviours such as when and at which fuel load a stopover site should be abandoned. I review some core components of optimal migration theory together with some key predictions. A review of accumulated empirical tests of the departure rule indicates that time minimization is an important component of the overall migration strategy, and hence gives support to the assumption about time-selected migration. I also briefly discuss how the optimal policy may be implemented by the bird by applying a set of simple rules. The time constraints on migrants increase with increasing body size. Some consequences of this are discussed.

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