Orientation and autumn migration routes of juvenile sharp- tailed sandpipers at a staging site in Alaska

Grönroos Johanna, Rachel Muheim, Susanne Akesson

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12 Citations (Scopus)


Arctic waders are well known for their impressive long-distance migrations between their high northerly breeding grounds and wintering areas in the Southern hemisphere. Performing such long migrations requires precise orientation mechanisms. We conducted orientation cage experiments with juvenile sharp-tailed sandpipers (Calidris acuminata) to investigate what cues they rely on when departing from Alaska on their long autumn migration flights across the Pacific Ocean to Australasia, and which possible migration routes they could use. Experiments were performed under natural clear skies, total overcast conditions and in manipulated magnetic fields at a staging site in Alaska. Under clear skies the juvenile sharp-tailed sandpipers oriented towards SSE, which coincides well with reported sun compass directions from their breeding grounds in Siberia towards Alaska and could reflect their true migratory direction towards Australasia assuming that they change direction towards SW somewhere along the route. Under overcast skies the sandpipers showed a mean direction towards SW which would lead them to Australasia, if they followed a sun compass route. However, because of unfavourable weather conditions (headwinds) associated with overcast conditions, these south-westerly directions could also reflect local movements. The juvenile sharp-tailed sandpipers responded clearly to the manipulated magnetic field under overcast skies, suggesting the use of a magnetic compass for selecting their courses.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1829-1835
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Experimental Biology
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 2010
Externally publishedYes

Swedish Standard Keywords

  • Ecology (10611)


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