Migration allows animals to live in resource-rich but seasonally variable environments. Because of the costs of migration, there is selective pressure to capitalize on variation in weather to optimize migratory performance. To test the degree to which migratory performance (defined as speed of migration) of Golden Eagles (Aquila chrysaetos) was determined by age- and season-specific responses to variation in weather, we analyzed 1,863 daily tracks (n = 83 migrant eagles) and 8,047 hourly tracks (n = 83) based on 15 min GPS telemetry data from Golden Eagles and 277 hourly tracks based on 30 s data (n = 37). Spring migrant eagles traveled 139.75 ± 82.19 km day−1 (mean ± SE; n = 57) and 25.59 ± 11.75 km hr−1 (n = 55). Autumn migrant eagles traveled 99.14 ± 59.98 km day−1 (n = 26) and 22.18 ± 9.18 km hr−1 (n = 28). Weather during migration varied by season and by age class. During spring, best-supported daily and hourly models of 15 min data suggested that migratory performance was influenced most strongly by downward solar radiation and that older birds benefited less from flow assistance (tailwinds). During autumn, best-supported daily and hourly models of 15 min data suggested that migratory performance was influenced most strongly by south–north winds and by flow assistance, again less strongly for older birds. In contrast, models for hourly performance based on data collected at 30 s intervals were not well described by a single model, likely reflecting eagles' rapid responses to the many weather conditions they experienced. Although daily speed of travel was similar for all age classes, younger birds traveled at faster hourly speeds than did adults. Our analyses uncovered strong, sometimes counterintuitive, relationships among weather, experience, and migratory flight, and they illustrate the significance of factors other than age in determining migratory performance.
Additional publication details
|Publication Subtype||Journal Article|
|Title||Counterintuitive roles of experience and weather on migratory performance|
|Series title||The Auk|
|Publisher||American Ornithological Society|
|Contributing office(s)||Forest and Rangeland Ecosystem Science Center|