From thermal to flyway
On January 21st I defended my doctoral research into the migration ecology of European Honey Buzzards (Pernis apivorus) at the University of Amsterdam. Migrating birds are often said to be 'racing against the clock'. However, during my Ph.D. research I found that Honey Buzzards tend to take it easy and go-with-the-flow during most of their migratory journeys. In so doing they avoid excessively risky or energetically costly migration routes. The biggest downside of this strategy is that the birds may run into serious delays when they run into adverse weather during spring migration, forcing them to forego breeding in some years. However, it seems such losses are compensated for by the fact that in contrast to migrants which live life in the fast lane, Honey Buzzards can become very old (10-20 yrs), giving them ample opportunities to breed in other years.