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Research at St Andrews

Beate Zein


Research overview

Migratory bird species travel up to thousands of kilometres to alternate between summer-breeding and wintering habitats. They follow similar patterns on their routes, but less is known about how they navigate during these long-distance flights. Different theories suggest compass or map navigation or a combination of both. Previous studies on bird movements relate to global and static geomagnetic data but it is still unclear to what extent birds use the Earth’s magnetic field at each moment in time and how big the impact of that information is on their behavioural response. In our study, we use high-resolution geomagnetic data to model the effect on the movement of various bird species. We use agent-based models to include rapid and small-scale changes of the movement and simulate the various proposed strategies. The results will be validated using existing tracking data from several migratory bird species of previous studies carried out by the MPI in Germany.

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