Journal Article

Bird migration—An energy-based analysis of costs and benefits


in Mathematical Medicine and Biology: A Journal of the IMA

Published on behalf of Institute of Mathematics and its Applications

Volume 15, issue 1, pages 65-85
Published in print March 1998 | ISSN: 1477-8599
Published online March 1998 | e-ISSN: 1477-8602 | DOI:
Bird migration—An energy-based analysis of costs and benefits

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  • Applied Mathematics
  • Biomathematics and Statistics


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We look at a model of migration as part of a whole ecological system. The purpose is to investigate the mutual relationship of population dynamics and migration strategies. In particular, we deal with the question of justifying the cost and danger of migration. We evaluate the flight costs in terms of energy and try to model annual events that influence migration rather than emphasizing single aspects. We apply estimates of the total annual energy budget to assess the motivation for migration. We give simulation runs of our model for the migration behaviour of one bird-of-prey species (Houbara bustard, Chlamydotis undulata macqueenii) and of one passerine species (stonechat, Saxicola torquata). In our model the most important factors determining migration success are overwinter survival and reproductive success. This is in agreement with experimental studies. The model allows strategies to be checked with respect to evolutionary stability in simulating species with very small initial values for the population size. During a period of warm winters a nonmigratory behaviour can be an evolutionary-stable strategy (ESS), but species which do not migrate are endangered and they can easily be extinguished during seasons with food supply below the average minimum (strong winters), even if such seasons are rare.

Keywords: population dynamics of migrating birds; migration strategy

Journal Article.  0 words. 

Subjects: Applied Mathematics ; Biomathematics and Statistics

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