Date:October 21, 2015
Each year migratory birds travel over thousands of kilometres. In spring and autumn, billions of individuals move from colder and less productive areas across vast distances to warmer and more productive places. To do so, however, it seems that the shortest route does not necessarily grant the fastest journey. Birds can save energy and time if they use wind support. Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology in Radolfzell Germany have calculated optimal routes in respect to wind support globally. Their research shows that birds using optimal wind conditions can save up to a quarter of travel time. Thus birds optimising on wind support should arrive earlier and in better conditions and have higher chances of survival and reproduction. The knowledge about such optimal flyways could spread over generations in migratory species.
On their migratory journey, birds cross oceans, the highest mountains, and deserts. The arctic tern, for example, holds the world record in annual avian travel distance, where it moves between its breeding grounds in the Arctic to winter in the Antarctic. Using satellite based technology, scientists are just on the verge of unravelling these phenomena.