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Orientation-cage experiments with the European Quail during the breeding season and autumn migration

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Abstract:

The directional movements of the male European Quail, Coturnix coturnix (L., 1758), during the breeding season and autumn migration were studied using Emlen orientation cages. The characteristics and evolution of the habitat in which males were captured and the sexual behaviour shown at capture indicate that these birds move in search of mating partners rather than of suitable habitats. These displacements are known as “gypsy movements” but are better described, as argued in this paper, as “movements in search of females”. A majority of caged birds (59%) showed a preferred direction (α=238.5°), which coincided almost exactly with that observed in recoveries of ringed birds during autumn migration (α =251.3°) but not with results from cage experiments during the same migratory period (α = 187.8°). Therefore, we conclude that displacements of the male European Quail, as shown in ringing recoveries, are much more influenced by “movements in search of females” than by migration. These movements are clearly towards the southwest, the males taking short flights towards suitable breeding grounds and driven by river-course habitats. In addition, we confirm that Emlen funnels are suitable for controlled experiments on the orientation of males in demes of European Quail.

Des cages d'Emlen nous ont servi à étudier l’orientation des déplacements des mâles de la caille des blés, Coturnix coturnix (L., 1758), durant la saison de reproduction et la migration automnale. Les caractéristiques et l'évolution des habitats dans lesquels les mâles ont été capturés et le comportement sexuel présent au moment de la capture indiquent que ces oiseaux se déplacent à la recherche de partenaires sexuels plutôt que d'habitats adéquats. Ces déplacements sont connus sous le nom de «déplacements de gitans», mais ils sont mieux décrits, comme nous en discutons ici, par l'appellation de «déplacements de recherche de femelles». La majorité (59%) des oiseaux en cage montrent une orientation préférentielle (α = 238,5º) qui coïncide presque parfaitement avec celles observées chez les oiseaux bagués récupérés pendant la migration d'automne (α = 251,3º), mais non avec celles obtenues dans les expériences en cage durant la même période de migration (α = 187,8º). Nous concluons donc que les déplacements des mâles de la caille des blés, comme le montrent les récupérations des bagues, sont plus sous l'influence de la «recherche de femelles» que de la migration. Ces déplacements sont clairement orientés vers le sud-ouest, les mâles entreprenant de courts vols vers des sites adéquats de reproduction et étant attirés par les habitats le long des cours d'eau. De plus, nous confirmons que les entonnoirs d'Emlen sont appropriés pour faire des expériences contrôlées sur l'orientation des mâles dans les dèmes de cailles des blés.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: June 1, 2006

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  • Published since 1929, this monthly journal reports on primary research contributed by respected international scientists in the broad field of zoology, including behaviour, biochemistry and physiology, developmental biology, ecology, genetics, morphology and ultrastructure, parasitology and pathology, and systematics and evolution. It also invites experts to submit review articles on topics of current interest.
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