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Acoustic information as a distant cue for habitat recognition by nocturnally migrating passerines during landfall

By Andrey Mukhin, Nikita Chernetsov and Dmitry Kishkinev

Abstract

During migration, birds must fly over suboptimal habitats differing from those selected during breeding and wintering. Nocturnally migrating passerines need to assess the suitability of potential stopover habitats during landfall. Before actual landfall, distant cues may play a significant role in habitat selection. In this paper, we studied the possibility that migrant songbirds use acoustic information as distant cues for habitat selection when ceasing flight. We also investigated differences between habitat generalists and specialists in their use of acoustic cues by comparing the proportion of species killed at lighthouses with those captured in mist nets using song playback in both suitable habitats and suboptimal stopover habitats during spring and fall migratory seasons. Our observations showed that during twilight landfall, birds may respond to acoustic cues, especially when visual cues are reduced or absent. This was true for habitat specialists (Eurasian reed warblers and sedge warblers) whose songs are also more attractive to conspecifics and other birds of wetland habitats than to habitat generalists (pied flycatchers and redwings). Adult Eurasian reed warblers had a tendency to be more attracted by acoustic cues than juveniles. This finding suggests that previous experience may play a role in habitat recognition using acoustic stimuli. Copyright 2008, Oxford University Press.

DOI identifier: 10.1093/beheco
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