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Nir Sapir

Associate Professor


Phone: +972-46-647966

Office location: Beit Sala, room 108



Research Interests:

We study biomechanical, behavioral, physiological, evolutionary and ecological aspects of flight in birds, bats and insects. Our projects include the study of wild animals in the field and in the lab using a diversity of research approaches. We are interested in the movement ecology of flying organisms, in particular during migration, but also during other life stages including migratory stopover and central-place foraging. In our projects we track the movement of flying organisms using GPS and radio telemetry, multi-sensor geolocators and radars. Additional projects apply controlled laboratory experiments on nutrition and lipid managements of migratory passerines, high-speed photography to study flight kinematics in various species, as well as life-history studies related to bird feather moult and migration patterns.


Specific research interests:

  1. Stopover fuel deposition, movement and departure for cross-country flight in migrating songbirds (with Daniela Zinssmeister) – This study combines food supplementation experiments, meteorological measurements, behavioral observations, and repeated recording of bird body mass by field-deployed measuring scales to examine predictions regarding habitat selection, fuel deposition and movement of passerines during migratory stopover and departure for migration.
  2. Behavioral ecology of soaring migrants crossing the Mediterranean basin under variable environmental conditions (With Paolo Becciu) – This study uses different types of data (from radars, GPS devices, accelerometers and visual observations) from different regions in the Mediterranean basin (Israel, Italy, Turkey and Spain) in order to examine how soaring birds respond to weather conditions and geographic features along their long-distance migratory routes.
  3. The effects of meteorological conditions and habitat attributes on nocturnal bird migration (with Inbal Shekler) – The goal of this study is to integrate information on bird migration and key influencing factors to explain and predict the abundance, 3D distribution and dynamics of nocturnal migration in the Eastern part of the Mediterranean Sea basin.


Selected publications:

  1. Becciu, P, Panuccio, M, Catoni, C, Dell’Omo, G. and Sapir, N. 2018. Contrasting aspects of tailwinds and asymmetrical response to crosswinds in soaring migrants. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 72:28.
  2. Achache, Y. Sapir, N. and Elimelech, Y. 2018. Hovering hummingbird wing aerodynamics during the annual cycle: II. Implications of wing feather molt. Royal Society Open Science 5:171766.
  3. Bauer, S., Chapman, J. W., Reynolds, D. R., Alves, J. A., Dokter, A., Menz, M., Sapir, N., Ciach, M., Pettersson, L. B., Kelly, J. F., Leijnse, H., Shamoun-Baranes, J. 2017. From agricultural benefits to aviation safety – the untapped potential of continental radar networks. BioScience 67:912-918.
  4. Kiat, Y. and Sapir, N. 2017. Age-dependent modulation of songbird summer feather moult by temporal and functional constraints. The American Naturalist 189:184-195.
  5. Hu, G., Lim, K. S., Horvitz, N., Clark S. J., Reynolds, D. R., Sapir, N. and Chapman, J. W. 2016. Mass seasonal bioflows of high-flying insect migrants. Science 354:1584-1587.
  6. Horvitz, N., Sapir, N. (equal contribution of the first two authors), Liechti, F., Avissar, R., Mahrer, I. and Nathan, R. 2014. The gliding speed of migrating birds: slow and safe or fast and risky? Ecology Letters 17:670-679.
  7. Sapir, N., Horvitz, N. (equal contribution of the first two authors), Dechman, D.K.N., Fahr, J. and Wikelski, M. 2014. Commuting fruit bats beneficially modulate their flight in relation to wind. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B 281: 20140018.
  8. Sapir, N. and Dudley, R. 2013. Implications of floral orientation for flight kinematics and metabolic expenditure of hover-feeding hummingbirds. Functional Ecology 27:227-235.
  9. Sapir, N., Horvitz, N., Wikelski, M., Mahrer, Y., Avissar, R. and Nathan, R. 2011. Migration by soaring or flapping: numerical atmospheric simulations reveal that turbulence kinetic energy dictates bee-eater flight mode. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B 278:3380-3386.
  10. Sapir, N., Butler, P.J., Wikelski, M. and Hedenström, A. 2011. Energy Gain and Use During Animal Migration. In Fryxell, J.M., Milner-Gulland, E.J. and Sinclair, A.R.E. (eds.), Animal Migration – A Synthesis. Oxford: Oxford University Press.