In order to succeed in crossing extensive ecological barriers, migratory birds usually deposit fuel en route. High rates of fuel deposition may enable birds to shorten their total migration time and are therefore advantageous for time-minimizing migrants. Several studies have suggested that water provision may increase food utilization in non-migratory birds. The goal of this study was to test the influence of water availability on the fuel deposition of en route migratory passerines. We studied fuel deposition of blackcaps Sylvia atricapilla and lesser whitethroats S. curruca staging in a plantation of Mount Atlas gum-tree Pistacia atlantica in the northern Negev desert, Israel, during the autumns of 2000 and 2002. We manipulated water availability at the site and measured the effect of water supplementation on fuel deposition of birds of both species. We found that when water was available, blackcaps had higher fuel loads and higher fuel deposition rates than during control trials. However, water availability had no effect on fuel deposition of lesser whitethroats. Species-specific differences in adaptations to arid conditions, reflected in the species' winter habitat preferences, may be responsible for the between-species dissimilarity in responding to water provision. We suggest that water availability may have strong ecological and evolutionary consequences for birds migrating through arid environments, by its possible effect on bird behavior and physiology.