Does hyperthermia constrain flight duration in a short-distance migrant?

Magella Guillemette, Steve Portugal

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While some migratory birds perform non-stop flights of over 11 000 km, many species only spend around 15% of the day in flight during migration, posing a question as to why flight times for many species are so short. Here, we test the idea that hyperthermia might constrain flight duration (FD) in a short-distance migrant using remote biologging technology to measure heart rate, hydro- static pressure and body temperature in 19 migrating eider ducks (Somateria mollissima), a short-distance migrant. Our results reveal a stop-and-go migration strategy where migratory flights were frequent (14 flights day21) and short (15.7 min), together with the fact that body temperature increases by 18C, on average, during such flights, which equates to a rate of heat storage index (HSI) of 48C h21. Furthermore, we could not find any evidence that short flights were limited by heart rate, together with the fact that the numerous stops could not be explained by the need to feed, as the frequency of dives and the time spent feeding were comparatively small during the migratory period. We thus conclude that hyperthermia appears to be the predomi- nant determinant of the observed migration strategy, and suggest that such a physiological limitation to FD may also occur in other species.
This article is part of the themed issue ‘Moving in a moving medium: new perspectives on flight’.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-8
Number of pages8
JournalPhilosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1704
Publication statusPublished - 26 Sept 2016

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