Atmospheric currents influence the choice of migratory routes and flight characteristics of birds as well as their decisions regarding migration onset and stopovers. Among long distance avian migrants, soaring birds are particularly dependent on wind and updrafts to help them complete their journeys. This review focuses on the behavioral adaptations of migratory soaring birds at various scales with regard to these atmospheric phenomena. Soaring landbirds and soaring seabirds have evolved morphological characteristics that make them specialists in soaring flight, thus enabling them to reduce the costs of migration significantly. We introduce the flight strategies of each group and discuss how migratory routes, flight characteristics, and onset and stopover decisions are all adjusted in relation to atmospheric conditions best suited for soaring. In addition, we discuss briefly how this strong dependence on atmospheric conditions makes soaring birds vulnerable to anthropogenic threats, such as wind energy development and climate change.
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Vol. 16 • No. 1