Inaugural Meeting of the MLSG, Wilhemshaven, Germany

The Bird Migration Lab group is representing the University of Copenhagen in the Inaugural Meeting of the Migrant Landbird Study Group (MLSG) being held at the Institute of Avian Research in Wilhelmshaven, Germany from March 26th to 28th, 2014. Different studies on landbird species conservation status and dynamics in wintering, staging, and breeding areas and different aspects on migration and population connectivity are actively being reviewed with a perspective on detecting the gaps in the knowledge, coordination of efforts, capacity building, and funding for potential future projects.

Representatives of different institutions from Belgium, Ghana, Croatia, Denmark, Germany, UK, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Switzerland, and The Netherlands are attending the meeting. Here, there is a picture of the whole group attending the event.






Cuckoo migration paper published

Our study on the migration of common cuckoos has been published in PLOS ONE. We satellite tracked eight adult cuckoos from Denmark and southern Sweden and describe the almost completely unknown migration. The cuckoos displayed a remarkably narrow migration corridor and surprisingly complex route including seven well-defined staging areas and a major detour in spring. Their main winter stopover is in Central Africa (c. three months), mainly DR Congo and Angola, and they have relatively long stopovers (1 month) in Poland, Hungary, southern Chad, Gabon/Cameroun and Ghana/Ivory Coast which leaves less than two months in the breeding area. In total they cover more than 16,000 kilometres and the spring visit to West Africa is a detour of about 1500 kilometres.

A common cuckoo with a 5g satellite transmitter on it's back in Porsemosen.

A common cuckoo with a 5g satellite transmitter on it’s back in Porsemosen.

Considering the complexity of this route, it is nothing less than amazing that a species that can only genetically inherit all information about the population specific migration programme migrates through a corridor as narrow as what we observed. We simulated the migration following a vector navigation programme, but even when adding a selection pressure from ocean and mountain barriers the simulations could not recreate a pattern comparable to the observed and we conclude that the innate migratory programme must contain more information than just directions and distances.

The satellite tracks of eight common cuckoos. Stopovers are highlighted with number of days spent in each area.

The satellite tracks of eight common cuckoos. Stopovers are highlighted with number of days spent in each area.

Read the full paper here. The story got a lot of media coverage including the two biggest popular science media in Denmark: and Mikkel also gave two radio interviews for P1 morgen and Radio24syv.

PhD project on Control of Bird Migration

Hello blog-readers,

I just started an exciting PhD program at the Bird Migration Lab with Kasper Thorup. My research interests center especially on studying phenotypic plasticity in migrating birds, from flexibility in individual behavior to adaptations acquired at population and species level. Within this PhD project I will study bird migration patterns at inter- and intra-specific level and the influence of environmental pressures. I will seek for the understanding of the inherited migration mechanisms using juvenile common cuckoos as the model organism suggested migrating by simple directional orientation. We will use up-to-date telemetry combined with existing data and Geographical Information Systems to find the answers on how birds control their fascinating migration movements.

My previous research work consisted of different stages. During the last year, I ran a project at the University of Groningen investigating the distribution and habitat use of staging ruffs along the last decade in The Netherlands. I also collaborated on a project on the black-tailed godwit population dynamics with the satellite transmitter attachment and monitoring in staging and breeding areas. Earlier stages included work in different research projects on avian breeding ecology at the University of Montana and the Smithsonian Institution, USA. Bird migration phenology programs also occupied several training and teaching periods at the Klamath Bird Observatory and the University of Utah, USA. Before these, I developed my M.S. Thesis at the Doñana Biological Station, the University of Pablo de Olavide, and the University of Oviedo, Spain. I studied the adaptive potential to climate change of two migrant bird species, the northern wheatear and the water pipit, in North Spain. The results of this work suggested that climate and its interaction with geographical barriers could be involved in microevolution phenomena in the studied populations.

I will be back with interesting research about the sentinels of the air! In the meantime I would like to share a few pictures of preceding works.

– Ruff Philomachus pugnax mark-recapture programme 2013 in Friesland, The Netherlands. University of Groningen

          A-1_Ruff-Mark-Recapture-Pro           A_2_Ruff-Mark-Recapture-Pro

– Population dynamics in the black-tailed godwit Limosa limosa limosa. PTT attached on an adult at the University of Extremadura, Spain 2013. University of Groningen


– Breeding ecology and demography in the wood thrush Hylocichla mustelina in Indiana, USA 2012. Smithsonian Institution

Spot recording in wood thrush adult


Wood thrush nestling equipped with radio tag and color-rings


An intruder in the brood…(a brown-headed cowbird Molothrus ater)


– Migration phenology at Rio Mesa, Utah, USA 2012. University of Utah

Western kingbird Tyrannus verticalis    Black-chinned hummingbird Archilochus                                                                    alexandri. 3.1 grams!                                       A_13_WEKI_UT          BCHU-(4)

Yellow-breasted chat Icteria virens        Gray vireo Vireo vicinior

A_17_YBCH_UT-(3)           GRVI-(6

– Effect of the climate change on alpine bird populations, Picos de Europa, Spain 2010. University of Oviedo, Doñana Biological Station, and University of Pablo de Olavide.

Alpine sparrow Montifringilla nivalis              Rofous-tailed rock thrush Monticola saxatilis

A_18_Montifringilla-nivalis      DSC_0397

Official start of the MATCH project

Yesterday, Feb 6, the funding of the MATCH project was offcially announced at the EliteForsk2014 conference. The MATCH project is funded as a DFF: Sapere Aude -starting grant and the conference celebrated those awarded elite research prizes and funding through the carrier programme, Sapere Aude, from the Danish Council for Independent Research (DFF). The award was given personally by the Minister of research, Sofie Carsten Nielsen, and the chairman of DFF, Peter Munk Christiansen.
foto 4 foto 2b foto 2

Impressive migration of thrush nightingales and marsh warblers at Ngulia Lodge, Kenya

Our geolocator tracks show that during the non-breeding season, Danish thrush nightingales not just migrate to one major over-wintering site but have several long stopovers autumn and spring. The tracked thrush nightingales apparently flew via southeast Kenya where the Ngulia ringing site, famous for particularly marsh warblers and thrush nightingales, is situated. I decided to “ground-truth” our tracks and experience this migration which only occurs in a short period from late November to early December and almost exclusively on misty, moonless nights. The last few days, we have caught up to more than 2000 birds per day, mainly marsh warblers and thrush nightingales, catching both night and day. Daylight hours have been full of thrush nightingale song, sort of odd thinking about the Christmas month in Denmark. The migration coincides with arrival of the rains in Kenya and for sure rain is right now pouring down! Better get some more sleep getting ready for tonight’s catching which normally start at midnight when the leopard has finished its meal and the mist is rolling in. Hopefully, the lion that roared yesterday in the distance has not moved to close…




Shola’s PhD defence

Shola (Soladoye Iwajomo) from Bird Migration Lab finished his PhD thesis in September. In his research he has focused on autumn migration, which there has been less focus on than spring migration in earlier migration studies. Shola has also been working with stop-over behavior as well as spatial behavior and food choice in the winter area of Garden warblers. Furthermore he has, by tracking African Cuckoos, started to explore the concept of intra-African migration which is a concept we know very little about. He has been dividing his studies between Sweden, Denmark and Nigeria; where he lives with his wife and daughter. Shola defended his thesis successfully the 20th of November to a committee consisting of Chris Hewson from BTO, Susanne Åkesson professor from Lund University and Chairman Anders Tøttrup from our own group. If you want to know more about the content of Sholas thesis contact him on;