Migration: Energetics


Energetic preparation for migration is the deposition of tissue to fuel locomotion. The prime fuel is fat, which can be accumulated in huge stores.

Keywords: fat deposition; fatty acids; frugivory; nutrition; protein use

Figure 1.

The ultimate prerequisite for successful migration in many migrant birds is fat as fuel for their long flights. Before departure on such flights, a large amount of fat is stored in thick subcutaneous deposits. The relatively lean garden warbler (left) weighing about 18 g would not be able to undertake long flights, in contrast to the fat bird (right) weighing about 30 g and well prepared for its trans‐Saharan journey to Afrotropical wintering grounds. Photographed by F. Bairlein.

Figure 2.

Seasonal pattern of body mass owing to fat deposition in redstarts, black redstarts and in hybrid offspring of both species. After Berthold et al., .



Berthold P, Helbig A, Mohr G, Pulido F and Querner U (1996) Volgelzug – moderne Phänomenologie und experimentelle Analyse der Steuerungssysteme und Evolutionsvorgänge. Jahrbuch der Max–Planck–Gesellschaft 1995: 346–354. München: Max–Planck–Gesellschaft.

Further Reading

Alerstam T and Hedenström A (1998) Optimal migration. Journal of Avian Biology 29: 337–636.

Bairlein F and Gwinner E (1994) Nutritional mechanisms and temporal control of migratory energy accumulation in birds. Annual Review of Nutrition 14: 187–215.

Berthold P (1996) Control of Bird Migration. London: Chapman & Hall.

Dingle H (1996) Migration. New York: Oxford University Press.

Drake VA and Gatehouse AG (1995) Insect Migration. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Gwinner E (1990) Bird Migration. The Physiology and Ecophysiology. Berlin: Springer Verlag.

McCleave JD, Arnold GP, Dodson JJ and Neill WH (1984) Mechanisms of Migration in Fishes. New York: Plenum Press.

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How to Cite close
Bairlein, Franz(Apr 2002) Migration: Energetics. In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. http://www.els.net [doi: 10.1038/npg.els.0003212]