As regular CFZ-watchers will know, for some time Corinna has been doing a column for Animals & Men and a regular segment on On The Track... particularly about out-of-place birds and rare vagrants. There seem to be more and more bird stories from all over the world hitting the news these days so, to make room for them all - and to give them all equal and worthy coverage - she has set up this new blog to cover all things feathery and Fortean.

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Risk assessment, for the birds

Complex factors determine when migrating songbirds make their journeys
Date: November 2, 2015
Source: National Science Foundation

Every year, backyard songbirds across the United States make an arduous journey to warmer winter climes. They migrate hundreds of miles, occasionally braving tough terrain and nasty weather. Sometimes, they have no place to stop and refuel along the way.

Birds actually weigh these risks using a combination of factors--fat, weather and date--to make a migration risk assessment, according to new research funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF). The findings can serve as the basis for building better conservation strategies, researchers say.

The work focused on three species of songbirds, red-eyed vireos, Swainson's thrushes and wood thrushes, as they crossed the Gulf of Mexico, from coastal Alabama to the Yucatan Peninsula. The researchers published their findings in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

"There are a lot of studies looking at bird's departure behavior or arrival behavior," said Jill Deppe, a biologist at Eastern Illinois University and principal investigator on the NSF award. "This is the first time we've been able to take a subset of birds and gather data on both."

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