Rush or relax: migration tactics of a nocturnal insectivore in response to ecological barriers

Michiel Lathouwers, Tom Artois, Nicolas Dendoncker, Natalie Beenaerts, Greg Conway, Ian Henderson, Céline Kowalczyk, Batmunkh Davaasuren, Soddelgerekh Bayrgur, Mike Shewring, Tony Cross, Eddy Ulenaers, Felix Liechti, Ruben Evens

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


During their annual migration, avian migrants alternate stopover periods, for refuelling, with migratory flight bouts. We hypothesise that European Nightjars (Caprimulgus europaeus) adapt their daily migration tactics in association with biomes. We tracked the autumn migration of 24 European Nightjars, from breeding populations in Mongolia, Belgium and UK, using GPS-loggers and multi-sensor data loggers. We quantified crepuscular and nocturnal migration and foraging probabilities, as well as daily travel speed and flight altitude during active migration in response to biomes. Nightjars adopt a rush tactic, reflected in high daily travel speed, flight altitude and high migration probabilities at dusk and at night, when travelling through ecological barriers. Migration is slower in semi-open, hospitable biomes. This is reflected in high foraging probabilities at dusk, lower daily travel speed and lower migration probabilities at dusk. Our study shows how nightjars switch migration tactics during autumn migration, and suggest nightjars alternate between feeding and short migratory flight bouts within the same night when travelling through suitable habitats. How this may affect individuals' fuel stores and whether different biomes provide refuelling opportunities en route remains to be investigated, to understand how future land-use change may affect migration patterns and survival probabilities.

Original languageEnglish
Article number4964
Number of pages1
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 23 Mar 2022


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