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1.  How Predictability of Feeding Patches Affects Home Range and Foraging Habitat Selection in Avian Social Scavengers? 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(1):e53077.
Feeding stations are commonly used to sustain conservation programs of scavengers but their impact on behaviour is still debated. They increase the temporal and spatial predictability of food resources while scavengers have supposedly evolved to search for unpredictable resources. In the Grands Causses (France), a reintroduced population of Griffon vultures Gyps fulvus can find carcasses at three types of sites: 1. “light feeding stations”, where farmers can drop carcasses at their farm (spatially predictable), 2. “heavy feeding stations”, where carcasses from nearby farms are concentrated (spatially and temporally predictable) and 3. open grasslands, where resources are randomly distributed (unpredictable). The impact of feeding stations on vulture’s foraging behaviour was investigated using 28 GPS-tracked vultures. The average home range size was maximal in spring (1272±752 km2) and minimal in winter (473±237 km2) and was highly variable among individuals. Analyses of home range characteristics and feeding habitat selection via compositional analysis showed that feeding stations were always preferred compared to the rest of the habitat where vultures can find unpredictable resources. Feeding stations were particularly used when resources were scarce (summer) or when flight conditions were poor (winter), limiting long-ranging movements. However, when flight conditions were optimal, home ranges also encompassed large areas of grassland where vultures could find unpredictable resources, suggesting that vultures did not lose their natural ability to forage on unpredictable resources, even when feeding stations were available. However during seasons when food abundance and flight conditions were not limited, vultures seemed to favour light over heavy feeding stations, probably because of the reduced intraspecific competition and a pattern closer to the natural dispersion of resources in the landscape. Light feeding stations are interesting tools for managing food resources, but don’t prevent vultures to feed at other places with possibly high risk of intoxication (poison).
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0053077
PMCID: PMC3536817  PMID: 23301024
2.  Wind selectivity and partial compensation for wind drift among nocturnally migrating passerines 
Behavioral Ecology  2012;23(5):1089-1101.
A migrating bird’s response to wind can impact its timing, energy expenditure, and path taken. The extent to which nocturnal migrants select departure nights based on wind (wind selectivity) and compensate for wind drift remains unclear. In this paper, we determine the effect of wind selectivity and partial drift compensation on the probability of successfully arriving at a destination area and on overall migration speed. To do so, we developed an individual-based model (IBM) to simulate full drift and partial compensation migration of juvenile Willow Warblers (Phylloscopus trochilus) along the southwesterly (SW) European migration corridor to the Iberian coast. Various degrees of wind selectivity were tested according to how large a drift angle and transport cost (mechanical energy per unit distance) individuals were willing to tolerate on departure after dusk. In order to assess model results, we used radar measurements of nocturnal migration to estimate the wind selectivity and proportional drift among passerines flying in SW directions. Migration speeds in the IBM were highest for partial compensation populations tolerating at least 25% extra transport cost compared to windless conditions, which allowed more frequent departure opportunities. Drift tolerance affected migration speeds only weakly, whereas arrival probabilities were highest with drift tolerances below 20°. The radar measurements were indicative of low drift tolerance, 25% extra transport cost tolerance and partial compensation. We conclude that along migration corridors with generally nonsupportive winds, juvenile passerines should not strictly select supportive winds but partially compensate for drift to increase their chances for timely and accurate arrival.
doi:10.1093/beheco/ars078
PMCID: PMC3431116  PMID: 22936843
individual-based model; partial compensation; passerine migration; vector orientation; wind drift; wind selectivity
3.  From Sensor Data to Animal Behaviour: An Oystercatcher Example 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(5):e37997.
Animal-borne sensors enable researchers to remotely track animals, their physiological state and body movements. Accelerometers, for example, have been used in several studies to measure body movement, posture, and energy expenditure, although predominantly in marine animals. In many studies, behaviour is often inferred from expert interpretation of sensor data and not validated with direct observations of the animal. The aim of this study was to derive models that could be used to classify oystercatcher (Haematopus ostralegus) behaviour based on sensor data. We measured the location, speed, and tri-axial acceleration of three oystercatchers using a flexible GPS tracking system and conducted simultaneous visual observations of the behaviour of these birds in their natural environment. We then used these data to develop three supervised classification trees of behaviour and finally applied one of the models to calculate time-activity budgets. The model based on accelerometer data developed to classify three behaviours (fly, terrestrial locomotion, and no movement) was much more accurate (cross-validation error = 0.14) than the model based on GPS-speed alone (cross-validation error = 0.35). The most parsimonious acceleration model designed to classify eight behaviours could distinguish five: fly, forage, body care, stand, and sit (cross-validation error = 0.28); other behaviours that were observed, such as aggression or handling of prey, could not be distinguished. Model limitations and potential improvements are discussed. The workflow design presented in this study can facilitate model development, be adapted to a wide range of species, and together with the appropriate measurements, can foster the study of behaviour and habitat use of free living animals throughout their annual routine.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0037997
PMCID: PMC3365100  PMID: 22693586
4.  Birds flee en mass from New Year’s Eve fireworks 
Behavioral Ecology  2011;22(6):1173-1177.
Anthropogenic disturbances of wildlife, such as noise, human presence, hunting activity, and motor vehicles, are becoming an increasing concern in conservation biology. Fireworks are an important part of celebrations worldwide, and although humans often find fireworks spectacular, fireworks are probably perceived quite differently by wild animals. Behavioral responses to fireworks are difficult to study at night, and little is known about the negative effects fireworks may have on wildlife. Every year, thousands of tons of fireworks are lit by civilians on New Year’s Eve in the Netherlands. Using an operational weather radar, we quantified the reaction of birds to fireworks in 3 consecutive years. Thousands of birds took flight shortly after midnight, with high aerial movements lasting at least 45 min and peak densities measured at 500 m altitude. The highest densities were observed over grasslands and wetlands, including nature conservation sites, where thousands of waterfowl rest and feed. The Netherlands is the most important winter staging area for several species of waterfowl in Europe. We estimate that hundreds of thousands of birds in the Netherlands take flight due to fireworks. The spatial and temporal extent of disturbance is substantial, and potential consequences are discussed. Weather radar provides a unique opportunity to study the reaction of birds to fireworks, which has otherwise remained elusive.
doi:10.1093/beheco/arr102
PMCID: PMC3199162  PMID: 22476363
birds; disturbance; fireworks; flight; Natura 2000; radar; waterfowl
5.  Integrating Meteorology into Research on Migration 
Atmospheric dynamics strongly influence the migration of flying organisms. They affect, among others, the onset, duration and cost of migration, migratory routes, stop-over decisions, and flight speeds en-route. Animals move through a heterogeneous environment and have to react to atmospheric dynamics at different spatial and temporal scales. Integrating meteorology into research on migration is not only challenging but it is also important, especially when trying to understand the variability of the various aspects of migratory behavior observed in nature. In this article, we give an overview of some different modeling approaches and we show how these have been incorporated into migration research. We provide a more detailed description of the development and application of two dynamic, individual-based models, one for waders and one for soaring migrants, as examples of how and why to integrate meteorology into research on migration. We use these models to help understand underlying mechanisms of individual response to atmospheric conditions en-route and to explain emergent patterns. This type of models can be used to study the impact of variability in atmospheric dynamics on migration along a migratory trajectory, between seasons and between years. We conclude by providing some basic guidelines to help researchers towards finding the right modeling approach and the meteorological data needed to integrate meteorology into their own research.
doi:10.1093/icb/icq011
PMCID: PMC2931313  PMID: 20811515

Results 1-5 (5)