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Abstract

We caught dunnocks at a wintering site near Pisa/Italy prior to their departure for breeding territories and held them indoors north of this site (Andechs/Germany) on a simulated photoperiod of 52.5 °N. After birds had gone through a reproductive cycle and postnuptial moult they developed migratory restlessness in autumn. At this time one group was transferred back to the previous wintering site (Pisa) where birds were held in individual activity cages in an outdoor aviary, allowing them to perceive as much environmental information as possible. A second group was transferred to a control site near Tour du Valat/France of approximately the same latitude and climate, but different longitude and held in an identical aviary. The diurnal activity pattern changed after transfer back to the previous wintering site, but not after transfer to the control site. Specifically, the amount of morning activity was reduced while afternoon activity was increased. This effect was restricted to those individuals that had been developing nocturnal migratory restlessness the previous spring. It was absent in individuals without migratory restlessness in spring, indicating that the different patterns were not due to unspecific effects from the testing sites. These results are consistent with the hypothesis that birds were able to derive information about their locality and to recognize their previous wintering site, resulting in suppression of migratory state by experience. The results are not definitely conclusive, however, because of several difficulties in the interpretation of perch-hopping activity, which are discussed in detail.