Honey Buzzard, © University of Konstanz

Flight repertoire of a soaring bird over the open sea

It has long been assumed that soaring birds are confined to flight over landmasses and avoid flying over the open sea. Soaring flight depends on thermals which are strongest when the sun heats up the earth’s surface and causes the warm air to rise. Following this argument, it was suggested that thermals must be absent over the sea. This assumption has been challenged in the past decade thanks to bio-logging studies showing soaring birds regularly flying over the open sea.

In this project, using high resolution GPS, IMU, and magnetometry data, we explore the flight repertoire of a soaring bird over the open sea during migration. We ask whether the flight mode (soaring vs. flapping) used by the birds depends on the available atmospheric energy over the sea and whether individual birds increase their proximity to their peers (as a proxy for social information use) when approaching the open sea.

Tracked data
© Elham Nourani