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Summary

The visible migration of birds of prey at Gibraltar is analysed from records kept throughout the spring passages of 1967–70 and the autumn passages of 1967–69. In early spring most visible passage is noted in the afternoons, whereas radar observations by Houghton (1970) indicate passage in the mornings. Later in the year an additional burst of visible passage sometimes occurs in the early morning, but it is concluded that most morning movements take place above visible range. Visible migration is recorded on most days of westerly wind during the migration seasons at Gibraltar. Passage is rarely seen when the winds are easterly. It is argued that under the latter conditions a strong upcurrent of air (standing wave) is formed over Gibraltar, and that this carries nearly all migrants above visible range.

Observations of visible passage elsewhere in the Straits suggest that, in spring, raptors of all species cross on a broad front from Tangier to Ceuta, except Honey Buzzards, which probably cross chiefly near Ceuta. In autumn, all species from northern Europe cross chiefly between Tarifa and to the east of Gibraltar, while birds from western Iberia probably cross mainly near Tarifa.

The periods of passage of the common migrant species are summarised.

On the basis of visual observations and published radar results, it is argued that raptors can compensate for lateral drift by the wind and so fly on chosen courses; but that in very strong cross-winds, e.g. the easterly Levanters, they may have to let themselves be drifted off-course.