Social Migration in Juvenile White Storks

Social Migration in Juvenile White Storks

Group movements are widespread among social birds and take place on a variety of spatial and temporal scales. It is acknowledged that migrants from many species use social cues during long-distance journeys, although the extent to which such cues determine the onset of migration and the development of migratory routes still remains unclear. Likewise, the assortment of ecological and energetic correlates of social migration has not yet been specifi­ed. Theory suggests that groups of co-migrating birds consist of a sub-group of actively navigating individuals and a much greater, complementary sub-group of flock members applying socially-facilitated movements. And the results of a few empirical studies on wild birds show that social learning is essential for young migrants to reach their wintering grounds. But the effect that sociality exerts on migratory behaviour remains still a mystery.

We study social aspects of White Stork (Ciconia ciconia) migration. In particular, we aim to determine the relationship between sociality and the costs (i.e. time and energy investment), pattern (stop-over and wintering locations), and success of long-distance journeys in White Storks. We ask how the migratory decisions (e.g. departure time, wintering grounds) of siblings relate to that of nonrelated individuals of the same population. Using high-resolution GPS-ACC data, we aim to specify interactions (e.g. group movements, following behavior) among co-navigating individuals in order to elucidate social rules of decision-making in small family groups. A better understanding of how social factors influence movement and dispersal of migratory species is of highest importance for disentangling the relative contributions of genes and culture.

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