SICB Division of Ecology and Evolution (DEE)

DEE Researchers Database Entry

Martin Wikelski

Songbird migration physiology
"Going wild"
Songbird migration physiology can be studied in the wild using biotelemetry. Based on the pioneering work by Bill Cochran (top figure) we understand migratory decisions of Catharus thrushes in the Midwestern US to a degree that allows us to follow individual birds during entire migratory flights (left bottom) and recapture them (right bottom; yellow lines indicate migratory flights starting from Champaign-Urbana, IL; each line represents one nocturnal migratory flight). Using these methods we can measure energy expenditure of migration with the doubly-labeled water method. Alternatively, we are now studying inflight energy expenditure using heart rate telemetry that also permits the quantification of wing beat and respiration pattern in flight. The results from these studies "gone wild" appear to challenge previously held beliefs about songbird migration.

Wikelski M, Tarlow EM, Raim A, Diehl RH, Larkin RP, Visser GH (2003) Costs of migration in free-flying songbirds. Nature 423, 704.

Cochran WW, Mouritsen H, Wikelski M. 2004. Migrating songbirds recalibrate their magnetic compass daily from twilight cues. Science 304,405-408.

Bowlin MS, Cochran WW, Wikelski M. 2005. Biotelemetry of New World thrushes during migration: Physiology, energetics and orientation in the wild. Integrative and Comparative Biology, in review.