Migrating birds choose routes with the best wind and uplift conditions

Researchers at the Max Planck Institute of Animal Behavior and University of Konstanz in Germany have identified how large land birds fly nonstop for hundreds of kilometers over the open ocean—without taking a break for food or rest. Using GPS tracking technology, the team monitored the global migration of five species of large land birds that complete long sea crossings. They found that all birds exploited wind and uplift to reduce energy costs during flight—even adjusting their migratory routes to benefit from the best atmospheric conditions. This is the most wide-ranging study of sea-crossing behavior yet and reveals the important role of the atmosphere in facilitating migration over the open sea for many terrestrial birds.

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