Flight strategies of migrating raptors; a comparative study of interspecific variation in flight characteristics
Article first published online: 28 JUN 2008
Volume 139, Issue 3, pages 523–535, July 1997
How to Cite
SPAAR, R. (1997), Flight strategies of migrating raptors; a comparative study of interspecific variation in flight characteristics. Ibis, 139: 523–535. doi: 10.1111/j.1474-919X.1997.tb04669.x
- Issue published online: 28 JUN 2008
- Article first published online: 28 JUN 2008
The comparison of flight styles and flight parameters of migrating raptors in Israel revealed the following. (1) Climbing rate in thermal circling did not differ between species, indicating that chiefly the strength of thermal updrafts determined the climbing rate and that morphological features were less relevant. (2) In interthermal gliding, air speed was positively and gliding angle negatively related to the species' average body mass. Heavier species glided faster and had smaller gliding angles. (3) In soaring and gliding flight, cross-country speed relative to the air was positively related to the species' body mass; it was obviously the result of the gliding ability increasing with body mass. (4) Eagles and buzzards used soaring and gliding flight for more than 95% of the observation time. Additional soaring in a straight line whilst gliding was extensively used by the Steppe Eagle Aquila nipalensis, Lesser Spotted Eagle Aquila pomarina and Booted Eagle Hieraætus pennatus and even more frequently by the resident species, the Griffon Vulture Gyps fulvus and Shorttoed Eagle Circaetus gallicus. Smaller species, such as the Levant Sparrowhawk Accipiter brevipes, harriers (Circus sp.) and small falcons (Falco sp.). showed the highest proportion of flapping and gliding flight (9–33%). (5) In a comparison of the flight parameters and proportions of flight styles, a cluster analysis distinguished two main groups: The first consisted of Montagu's Harrier Circus pygargus, Pallid Harrier Circus macrourus, Levant Sparrowhawk and small falcons; their flight behaviour was characterized by both the high proportion of flapping and the low gliding performance. The second group comprised the typical soaring migrants: Steppe Eagle, Lesser Spotted Eagle, Booted Eagle, Steppe Buzzard Buteo buteo vulpinus, Honey Buzzard Pernis apivorus and Egyptian Vulture Neophron percnopterus, and they had very similar flight behaviour and were closely clustered. The Black Kite Milvus migrans and Marsh Harrier Circus aeruginosus were intermediate between typical soarers and flappers. The two resident species, Griffon Vulture and Short-toed Eagle, were grouped separately from the soaring migrants.