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Temperature-influenced energetics model for migrating waterfowl

April 26, 2018

Climate and weather affect avian migration by influencing when and where birds fly, the energy costs and risks of flight, and the ability to sense cues necessary for proper navigation. We review the literature of the physiology of avian migration and the influence of climate, specifically temperature, on avian migration dynamics. We use waterfowl as a model guild because of the ready availability of empirical physiological data and their enormous economic value, but our discussion and expectations are broadly generalizable to migratory birds in general. We detail potential consequences of an increasingly warm climate on avian migration, including the possibility of the cessation of migration by some populations and species. Our intent is to lay the groundwork for including temperature effects on energetic gains and losses of migratory birds with the expected consequences of increasing temperatures into a predictive modeling framework. To this end, we provide a simulation of migration progression exclusively focused on the influence of temperature on the physiological determinants of migration. This simulation produced comparable results to empirically derived and observed values for different migratory factors (e.g., body fat content, flight range, departure date). By merging knowledge from the arenas of avian physiology and migratory theory we have identified a clear need for research and have developed hypotheses for a path forward.