Stay or go

Animal: blackbirds

Black bird (Turdus merula).

Knowledge about partial migration – where only part of the population migrates while the rest remain where they are – helps us to understand why animals migrate. It provides insights into how environmental conditions during the non-breeding season lead to adjustment strategies and the extent to which global environmental changes, such as climate change or changes to land use (e.g. urbanization), generally influence migration strategies.

Not all migratory birds set off on a journey every year. Some simply stay where they are. Such partial migration represents a transition point between migration and sedentariness. Why some birds migrate and others remain at their place of birth is a mystery, as suitable technology for following songbirds throughout the year was not previously available.

The Icarus researchers will now observe sedentary and migratory birds from various blackbird populations over a several-year period using the Icarus transmitters. They aim to discover how flexible the birds’ decision-making on migratory flight is when they live in polar, temperate or Mediterranean regions. The researchers hope to understand how migratory birds overcome the challenges of their environment and whether they could respond quickly enough to changes, such as climate change or urbanization.

Location: Europe and North America

Contact: Jesko Partecke and Martin Wikelski, Max Planck Institute of Animal Behavior, Konstanz, Germany


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