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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2003

Can vector summation describe the orientation system of juvenile ospreys and honey buzzards? - An analysis of ring recoveries and satellite tracking

Thorup K, Alerstam T, Hake M, Kjellen N


Juvenile bird migrants are generally believed to use a clock-and-compass migratory orientation strategy. According to such a strategy migrants accomplish their migration by flying a number of successive flight steps with direction and number of steps controlled by an endogenous programme. One powerful way of testing this is by comparing predictions from a model of such a strategy with observed patterns. We used data from ringing and satellite-based radio telemetry to investigate the orientation system of juvenile ospreys (Pandion haliaetus) and honey buzzards (Pernis apivorus) migrating from Sweden to tropical west Africa. The ring recoveries showed a much larger scatter in the orientation of ospreys than of honey buzzards, but there was only a slight such difference in the satellite tracks. These tracks of individuals of both species were rather straight with a high directional concentration per step. The honey buzzard. data showed a close fit to a simple vector summation model, which is expected if birds follow a clock-and-compass strategy. However, the osprey data did not fit such a simple model, as ring recoveries showed a significantly greater deviation at short distances than predicted on the basis of long distance data. Satellite tracking also indicated less concentrated orientation on short distances. The pattern observed for the osprey can generally be explained by an extended vector summation model, including an important element of pre-migration dispersal. The existence of extensive dispersal in the osprey stands in contrast to the apparent absence of such dispersal in the honey buzzard. The explanation for this difference between the species is unclear. The model of orientation by vector summation is very sensitive to the existence of differences in mean direction between individuals. Assuming such differences, as tentatively indicated by the satellite tracking data, makes simple compass orientation by vector summation inconsistent with the distribution of ring recoveries at long distances, with a high proportion of misoriented birds falling outside the normal winter range

Published in

2003, Volume: 103, number: 2, pages: 350-359

    SLU Authors

    • Hake, Mikael

      • Department of Conservation Biology, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences

    UKÄ Subject classification

    Environmental Sciences related to Agriculture and Land-use

    Publication Identifiers


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