Departure fuel loads in time-minimizing migrating birds can be explained by the energy costs of being heavy

M.R.J. Klaassen, A. Lindstrom

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    Lindstrom & Alerstam (1992 Am. Nat. 140, 477-491) presented a model that predicts optimal departure fuel loads as a function of the rate of fuel deposition in time-minimizing migrants. The basis of the model is that the coverable distance per unit of fuel deposited, diminishes with increasing fuel load. This is an effect of the increasing flight costs associated with increasing body mass. Lindstrom & Alerstam (1992) found that birds left at lower fuel loads than their model predicted for which they considered various ecological explanations. Alternatively, we hypothesize that the difference between prediction and empirical data might be a result of extra resting metabolic and transport costs associated with an increase in fuel load during stopover. We develop a new version of the Lindstrom & Alerstam (1992) model taking fuel load associated costs during stopover into account. We fit empirical data from rufous hummingbirds Selasphorus rufus (Carpenter el al., 1983 Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 80, 7259-7263) and bluethroats Luscinia svecica (Lindstrom & Alerstam, 1992) to this new model. Estimated fuel-load costs are discussed in relation to knowledge presently available on variations in basal metabolic costs and transport costs with body mass. We show that fuel-load costs within a reasonable range can explain the observed departure fuel loads when migrating birds are time minimizers. [KEYWORDS: Basal metabolic-rate; size; hummingbirds; phase]
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)29-34
    JournalJournal of Theoretical Biology
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 1996


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