European-African Songbird Migration

More about the Network

The principal migratory routes for many species of songbirds migrating from the Palaearctic to African wintering grounds are fairly well known. What is missing is a detailed analysis of environmental factors controlling bird migration as well as the temporal and spatial course of the migratory journeys. Successful migration depends on the storage of energy fuel for the journey. Long distance migrants that go thousands of kilometres from their summer breeding ground to distant African wintering sites exhibit extraordinary feats of physiological endurance. To migrate these long distances and to cross the inhospitable terrain of the Sahara or the open sea requires considerable energy. Only a few birds, such as swallows, are able to collect food while migrating. Most birds must store large amounts of fat before departure. Birds show an amazing variety of migration strategies. Some travel in many short steps, others in one or two stretches with very long flights.

The main objective of this Network is to create a coherent European project to study the different strategies of migratory birds. The key questions include investigation of:

  • the migration routes, timing and stopover sites used by migrating birds,
  • ecological requirements at the fattening areas,
  • localisation of fattening areas and wintering grounds.

Although several successful regional and national programmes exist it is essential to gather standardised data from the full range of migratory routes. Research centres from 17 countries representing more than 30 bird-ringing groups have committed themselves to collaboration within the Network. The Network provides the means to integrate and co-ordinate existing and complementary research. Common guidelines in the shape of a Field Manual developed within the Network and recurring training courses secure standardised measurements and trapping methods at all ringing sites. A centralised database is being built up to support the Network members and to encourage rapid data analysis, supplying complete sets of raw data to participants for further research. A first analysis of data fed into the database will be undertaken during late autumn/winter 1996/97, when data from the autumn season 1996 will have been included in the database.

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