Fuel load and flight range estimation of migrating passerines in the western part of the Carpathian Basin during the autumn migration

  • József Gyurácz University of Eötvös Loránd, Savaria Campus, Department of Biology, 9700, Szombathely, Károlyi Gáspár tér 4. Hungary
  • Péter Bánhidi Local Group of BirdLife Hungary, 9700 Szombathely, Károlyi Gáspár tér 4. Hungary
  • József Góczán Local Group of BirdLife Hungary, 9700 Szombathely, Károlyi Gáspár tér 4. Hungary
  • Péter Illés Local Group of BirdLife Hungary, 9700 Szombathely, Károlyi Gáspár tér 4. Hungary
  • Sándor Kalmár Local Group of BirdLife Hungary, 9700 Szombathely, Károlyi Gáspár tér 4. Hungary
  • Péter Koszorús Local Group of BirdLife Hungary, 9700 Szombathely, Károlyi Gáspár tér 4. Hungary
  • Zoltán Lukács Local Group of BirdLife Hungary, 9700 Szombathely, Károlyi Gáspár tér 4. Hungary
  • Péter Molnár University of Eötvös Loránd, Savaria Campus, Department of Biology, 9700, Szombathely, Károlyi Gáspár tér 4. Hungary
  • Csaba Németh Local Group of BirdLife Hungary, 9700 Szombathely, Károlyi Gáspár tér 4. Hungary
  • László Varga Local Group of BirdLife Hungary, 9700 Szombathely, Károlyi Gáspár tér 4. Hungary
Keywords: passerine, fuel load, flight range, western Hungary


Estimating fuel load and potential flight ranges of migrant passerines are basic issues in understanding bird migration strategies. Thirteen sub-Saharan and three pre-Saharan migrant passerine species were analysed in this study. The birds were captured at the Tömörd Bird Ringing Station in the western part of the Carpathian Basin. A general linear model with body mass as the dependent variable and fat score, muscle score and wing length as independent variables were used to estimate lean body mass (body mass without fuel deposits) and fuel load. In ten of the species studied, models considering interactions between factors fit the data better than the main-effect models. Body mass was positively correlated with the fat score in all species, with muscle score in ten species and wing length in 14 species. During autumn, fuel load tended to be larger in the sub-Saharan migrants, especially in four species which pass over the Mediterranean Sea, Common Nightingale (Luscinia megarhynchos), Icterine Warbler (Hippolais icterina), Garden Warbler (Sylvia borin) and Barred Warbler (Curruca nisoria). Nine sub-Saharan migrants, Marsh Warbler (Acrocephalus palustris), Sedge Warbler (A. schoenobaenus), Eurasian Reed Warbler (A. scirpaceus), European Pied Flycatcher (Ficedula hypoleuca), Spotted Flycatcher (Muscicapa striata), Wood Warbler (Phylloscopus sibilatrix), Willow Warbler (Ph. trochilus), Common Whitethroat (C. communis) and Lesser Whitethroat (C. curruca) had estimated flight ranges similar (<1300 km) to two pre-Saharans, European Robin (Erithacus rubecula) and Eurasian Blackap (S. atricapilla). The three short-distance migrants, including the Common Chiffchaff (Ph. collybita) with the shortest distance, had sufficient fuel load to reach their southern European wintering sites without needing to refuel at stopover sites.


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How to Cite
GyuráczJ., BánhidiP., GóczánJ., IllésP., KalmárS., KoszorúsP., LukácsZ., MolnárP., NémethC., & VargaL. (2023). Fuel load and flight range estimation of migrating passerines in the western part of the Carpathian Basin during the autumn migration. Acta Zoologica Academiae Scientiarum Hungaricae, 69(1), 47-61. https://doi.org/10.17109/AZH.