The flight apparatus of migratory and sedentary individuals of a partially migratory songbird species

Fudickar, A.M.; Partecke, J.

Plos one 7(12): E51920


ISSN/ISBN: 1932-6203
PMID: 23284817
DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0051920
Accession: 056345643

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Variations in the geometry of the external flight apparatus of birds are beneficial for different behaviors. Long-distance flight is less costly with more pointed wings and shorter tails; however these traits decrease maneuverability at low speeds. Selection has led to interspecific differences in these and other flight apparatuses in relation to migration distance. If these principles are general, how are the external flight apparatus within a partially migratory bird species shaped in which individuals either migrate or stay at their breeding grounds? We resolved this question by comparing the wing pointedness and tail length (relative to wing length) of migrant and resident European blackbirds (Turdus merula) breeding in the same population. We predicted that migrant blackbirds would have more pointed wings and shorter tails than residents. Contrary to our predictions, there were no differences between migrants and residents in either measure. Our results indicate that morphological differences between migrants and residents in this partially migratory population may be constrained.