Is there a connection between weather at departure sites, onset of migration and timing of soaring-bird autumn migration in Israel?

Judy Shamoun-Baranes*, Emiel van Loon, Dan Alon, Pinhas Alpert, Yoram Yom-Tov, Yossi Leshem

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Aims: Different aspects of soaring-bird migration are influenced by weather. However, the relationship between weather and the onset of soaring-bird migration, particularly in autumn, is not clear. Although long-term migration counts are often unavailable near the breeding areas of many soaring birds in the western Palaearctic, soaring-bird migration has been systematically monitored in Israel, a region where populations from large geographical areas converge. This study tests several fundamental hypotheses regarding the onset of migration and explores the connection between weather, migration onset and arrival at a distant site. Location: Globally gridded meteorological data from the breeding areas in north-eastern Europe were used as predictive variables in relation to the arrival of soaring migrants in Israel. Methods: Inverse modelling was used to study the temporal and spatial influence of weather on initiation of migration based on autumn soaring-bird migration counts in Israel. Numerous combinations of migration duration and temporal influence of meteorological variables (temperature, sea-level pressure and precipitable water) were tested with different models for meteorological sensitivity. Results: The day of arrival in Israel of white storks, honey buzzards, Levant sparrowhawks and lesser spotted eagles was significantly and strongly related to meteorological conditions in the breeding area days or even weeks before arrival in Israel. The cumulative number of days or cumulative value above or below a meteorological threshold performed significantly better than other models tested. Models provided reliable estimates of migration duration for each species. Main conclusions: The meteorological triggers of migration at the breeding grounds differed between species and were related to deteriorating living conditions and deteriorating migratory flight conditions. Soaring birds are sensitive to meteorological triggers at the same period every year and their temporal response to weather appears to be constrained by their annual routine.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)541-552
Number of pages12
JournalGlobal Ecology and Biogeography
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 2006


  • Accipiter brevipes
  • Aquila pomarina
  • Ciconia ciconia
  • Inverse modelling
  • Migration onset
  • Pernis apivorus
  • Phenology
  • Sea-level pressure
  • Temperature
  • Threshold effect


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