The body fattening and weight gain preceding vernal migration in birds is timed by a set of environmental factors of which daylength is predominant. However, the mechanism(s) by which these events is determined is poorly understood. Previous investigations on a photoperiodic migratory species, the blackheaded bunting (Emberiza melanocephala), indicate the involvement of a light-sensitive circadian rhythm during initiation of fat deposition and body weight gain. This communication presents data from another set of experiments aimed to characterize further the mechanism(s) of fat deposition in the same species.
Groups of photosensitive, unstimulated and stimulated birds were subjected to transfer and superimposition experiments for 30 days. While the former set included shifting of long-day (LD) birds to DD, SD (short days), DD/LD and SD/LD, in the latter a 90-minute bright light was superimposed at two different times of the day during the dim-green lighted phase 15L:9D of varying intensity. Birds were weighed at the beginning and at the end of experiments. Those in transfer cycles were also weighed at 10-day intervals. The results suggest that the premigratory body fattening and weight gain in blackheaded buntings is light dependent and timed by environmental daylength in accordance with the photosensitive endogenous circadian rhythm (ECR). They also show that the photoperiodic responses in birds in general are mediated by circadian rhythm(s).