Occurrence of Quiescence In Free-Ranging Migratory Songbirds

Document Type


Publication Date



Biological Sciences


Biological, Environmental, and Earth Sciences


Quiescence is a period of inactivity that occurs before the onset of migratory activity in nocturnally migrating birds. This behavior has been observed in captive birds in migratory disposition, but its occurrence in free-ranging migratory birds has been documented only anecdotally, and causal factors and function(s), if any, are unknown. In this study, we documented and characterized quiescence in three migratory songbird species (red-eyed vireo [Vireo olivaceus], Swainson’s thrush [Catharus ustulatus], and wood thrush [Hylocichla mustelina]) by measuring movement and proportion of time spent inactive prior to departure from a stopover site during fall migration. Individuals of each species displayed a period of inactivity prior to departure which varied from less than 30 min to over 90 min with red-eyed vireos engaged in the longest, most pronounced quiescence. We also examined how quiescence was related to intrinsic and extrinsic factors known to influence the departure of migrating birds, and found some evidence for an effect of age and departure time but no effect of a migrant’s energetic condition, departure direction, atmospheric conditions around departure, or day of year on quiescence. Our novel application of an automated radiotelemetry system yielded a large amount of data to characterize quiescence in free-ranging migratory birds, and we provide guidance for future studies to tease apart the various causal factors and function(s) of this migratory behavior.

Publication Title

Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology





Find in your library