Local and regional wind patterns affect spring migration magnitude, flyways and flocking of European Honey-buzzards Pernis apivorus at the Strait of Messina 

Doi: https://doi.org/10.13157/arla.68.2.2021.ra4

Authors: Nicolantonio AGOSTINI, Gianpasquale CHIATANTE, Marco GUSTIN, Michele CENTO, Jost von HARDENBERG, Giacomo DELL’OMO and Michele PANUCCIO

E-mail: nicolantonioagostini@gmail.com

Published: Volume 68.2, July 2021. Pages 373-390.

Language: English

Keywords: horizontal wind, flocking, migration, pathways, Pernis apivorus, vertical wind and water crossing


During spring migration, a few tens of thousands of European Honey-buzzards wintering in sub-Saharan Africa cross the central Mediterranean to reach their breeding grounds in centraleastern Europe. In so doing they concentrate passage through the Sicilian Channel but choose different flyways in response to different wind conditions. This study investigated the influence of local and regional wind conditions on the movement patterns of this species along the Strait of Messina, a migration bottleneck located between eastern Sicily and southern continental Italy where some raptors fall victim to illegal shooting by poachers each spring. Simultaneous observations occurred at four watchpoints, three on the Sicilian side and one on the continental boundary (Calabrian side). Although northwesterly winds prevailed at the Strait during peak migration days, slightly different local patterns of both horizontal and vertical winds at each observation site affected flocking and shaped the passage of raptors through this bottleneck, broadening the migration front. The results confirm that the magnitude of Honey-buzzard spring migration at the Strait is strongly affected by wind patterns in the Sicilian Channel. In particular, migrants concentrate at this bottleneck after crossing the Channel in northwesterly winds the previous day. In conclusion, by interpreting migratory behaviour both at local and regional scales, this work can help to plan more efficient monitoring of Honey-buzzards through the Strait and improving the siting of conservationist efforts.

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