Exercising too much and not getting enough rest is bad for your health. A new study from Lund University in Sweden shows that the same is true for migratory birds. They need rest not only to replenish their energy levels but also in order to boost their immune system.
After a period of physical exertion, vertebrates, including humans, usually need a period of recovery. Aside from the obvious—lowering heart rate and repairing injured muscles—other, less prominent physiological systems may also need recovery. Intense physical activity can affect an individual’s primary immune defense.
When birds migrate, they regularly stop in one place for a few days to rest and eat. Previously it was believed that this is necessary in order to create new fat reserves that provide fuel for their migration. However, researchers have now shown that the birds are also building up an immune system while they are off burrowing. They do it very quickly – resting for a few days is more than enough.
“This is the first time this has been shown in wild, migratory birds. Our study shows that stopping by migratory birds serves other purposes, besides just ‘refueling’. They also need other physiological systems to recover. You can compare it to pulling off the highway to a service station.” This is not only for the purpose of refueling, but you may also need to recover,” says Arne Hegemann, a biologist at Lund University who conducted the study with colleagues from the Institute of Bird Research in Germany.
The researchers examined small migratory birds — such as jays, dannus, and common red starlings — and analyzed how their immune system changes when they take a break during their migration.
“If you see a young bird in your garden or park during the fall and you know they’re heading off to southern Europe or Africa, it’s great to think about why they’re taking a break. If they don’t get food or rest, their immune systems can’t recover — and that’s when they take risks. getting sick,” says Arne Hegemann.
By collecting and comparing data from various individuals and species, the researchers showed that free-flying migratory birds can restore several parameters of immune function during layovers; Fixed intervals between flights.
“It is absolutely amazing that we are still learning so much about bird migration and new and exciting things are emerging regularly. This provides an important piece of the puzzle about how migratory birds deal with the physiological challenges they face on their long journeys,” he concludes. Arne Hegeman.