Document Detail

Circadian flight schedules in night-migrating birds caught on migration.
MedLine Citation:
PMID:  18765352     Owner:  NLM     Status:  MEDLINE    
Many species of migratory birds migrate in a series of solitary nocturnal flights. Between flights, they stop to rest and refuel for the next segment of their journey. The mechanism controlling this behaviour has long remained elusive. Here, we show that wild-caught migratory redstarts (Phoenicurus phoenicurus) are consistent in their flight scheduling. An advanced videographic system enabled us to determine the precise timing of flight activity in redstarts caught at a northern European stopover site during their return trip from Africa. Birds were held captive for three days in the absence of photoperiodic cues (constant dim light) and under permanent food availability. Despite the absence of external temporal cues, birds showed clear bimodal activity patterns: intense nocturnal activity alternating with diurnal foraging and resting periods. The onset of their migratory activity coincided with the time of local sunset and was individually consistent on consecutive nights. The data demonstrate that night-migrating birds are driven by autonomous circadian clocks entrained by sunset cues. This timekeeping system is probably the key factor in the overall control of nocturnal songbird migration.
Timothy Coppack; Simon F Becker; Philipp J J Becker
Publication Detail:
Type:  Journal Article    
Journal Detail:
Title:  Biology letters     Volume:  4     ISSN:  1744-9561     ISO Abbreviation:  Biol. Lett.     Publication Date:  2008 Dec 
Date Detail:
Created Date:  2009-01-07     Completed Date:  2009-02-03     Revised Date:  2013-06-05    
Medline Journal Info:
Nlm Unique ID:  101247722     Medline TA:  Biol Lett     Country:  England    
Other Details:
Languages:  eng     Pagination:  619-22     Citation Subset:  IM    
Institute of Avian Research, Vogelwarte Helgoland, 26386 Wilhelmshaven, Germany Max Planck Institute for Ornithology, Vogelwarte Radolfzell, 78315 Radolfzell, Germany.
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MeSH Terms
Animal Migration / physiology*
Circadian Rhythm*
Flight, Animal*
Passeriformes / physiology*

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