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.

Thursday 23 August 2018

Study of bird migration tricky due to hybridization

August 23, 2018, Estonian Research Council

Hybridization among bird species is a widespread phenomenon, which is best illustrated in Estonia by the lesser spotted eagle and the greater spotted eagle. However, due to the fact that the migration strategies of both bird species are completely different, studying their hybrid offspring helps ornithologists discover a lot about their migration secrets.

The lesser spotted eagle is an early leaving far traveler. The greater spotted eagle is a late leaving short- and middle-distance traveler. According to Ülo Väli, senior researcher at the chair of biological diversity and nature tourism of the Estonian University of Life Sciences, hybridization causes confusion among ornithologists, but it is worrying, because the rare greater spotted eagle may be endangered. At the same time, studying hybrids can reveal answers to ecological questions. "With their hybridization, birds offer scientists an excellent inter-breeding experiment from nature, which helps explain factors affecting the migration of birds."

Thus, for instance, it has been believed for a long time that the timing, direction and length of migration of passerines with a shorter lifespan is mostly determined by genetic factors, and for bigger birds with a longer life-span, it is more important to learn from their parents and others of the same species. It has previously only been possible to conduct experiments with small passerines in order to check these assumptions. The research of migration of big birds with a longer lifespan has been hampered by inadequate technical capacities.

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