A circannual perspective on daily and total flight distances in a long-distance migratory raptor, the Montagu's harrier, Circus pygargus

Almut E. Schlaich, Willem Bouten, Vincent Bretagnolle, Henning Heldbjerg, Raymond H. G. Klaassen, Iben H. Sørensen, Alexandre Villers, Christiaan Both

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Long-distance migrants are particularly recognized for the distances covered on migration, yet little is known about the distances they cover during the rest of the year. GPS-tracks of 29 Montagu's harriers from breeding areas in France, The Netherlands and Denmark showed that harriers fly between 35 653 and 88 049 km yr-1, of which on average only 28.5% is on migration. Mean daily distances during migration were 296 km d-1 in autumn and 252 km d-1 in spring. Surprisingly, males' daily distances during breeding (217 km d-1) were close to those during migration, whereas breeding females moved significantly less (101 km d-1) than males. In terms of flight distance, the breeding season seemed nearly as demanding as migration periods for males. During the six winter months, both sexes moved less (114 and 128 km d-1 for females and males, respectively) than during migration. Harriers therefore covered shorter daily distances during winter which might allow birds to compensate for the more demanding phases of migration and breeding.
Original languageEnglish
Article number20170073
Number of pages5
JournalBiology Letters
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Jun-2017


  • Animal Migration
  • Animals
  • Denmark
  • Falconiformes
  • Female
  • France
  • Male
  • Netherlands

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