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- Data packageData from: Wing size but not wing shape is related to migratory behavior in a soaring bird(2016-12-21) Bildstein, Keith L.; Barber, David; Bechard, Marc J.; Graña Grilli, MaricelNOTE: An updated and larger version of this dataset is available. See https://doi.org/10.5441/001/1.f3qt46r2. ABSTRACT: Both wing size and wing shape affect the flight abilities of birds. Intra and inter-specific studies have revealed a pattern where high aspect ratio and low wing loading favour migratory behaviour. This, however, have not been studied in soaring migrants. We assessed the relationship between the wing size and shape and the characteristics of the migratory habits of the turkey vulture (Cathartes aura), an obligate soaring migrant. We compared wing size and shape with migration strategy among three fully migratory, one partially migratory and one non-migratory (resident) population distributed across the American continent. We calculated the aspect ratio and wing loading using wing tracings to characterize the wing morphology. We used satellite-tracking data from the migratory populations to calculate distance, duration, speed and altitude during migration. Wing loading, but not aspect ratio, differed among the populations, segregating the resident population from the completely migratory ones. Unlike it has been reported in species using flapping flight during migration, the migratory flight parameters of turkey vultures were not related to the aspect ratio. By contrast, wing loading was related to most flight parameters. Birds with lower wing loading flew farther, faster, and higher during their longer journeys. Our results suggest that wing morphology in this soaring species enables lower-cost flight, through low wing-loading, and that differences in the relative sizes of wings may increase extra savings during migration. The possibility that wing shape is influenced by foraging as well as migratory flight is discussed. We conclude that flight efficiency may be improved through different morphological adaptations in birds with different flight mechanisms.
- Data packageData from: Study "Vultures Acopian Center USA GPS" (2003-2021)(2021-12-29) Bildstein, Keith L.; Barber, David; Bechard, Marc J.; Graña Grilli, Maricel; Therrien, Jean-FrançoisBackground: Migrating birds experience weather conditions that change with time, which affect their decision to stop or resume migration. Soaring migrants are especially sensitive to changing weather conditions because they rely on the availability of environmental updrafts to subsidize flight. The timescale that local weather conditions change over is on the order of hours, while stopovers are studied at the daily scale, creating a temporal mismatch. Methods: We used GPS satellite tracking data from four migratory Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura) populations, paired with local weather data, to determine if the decision to stopover by migrating Turkey Vultures was in response to changing local weather conditions. We analyzed 174 migrations of 34 individuals from 2006 to 2019 and identified 589 stopovers based on variance of first passage times. We also investigated if the extent of movement activity correlated with average weather conditions experienced during a stopover, and report general patterns of stopover use by Turkey Vultures between seasons and across populations. Results: Stopover duration ranged from 2 h to more than 11 days, with 51 % of stopovers lasting < 24 h. Turkey Vultures began stopovers immediately in response to changes in weather variables that did not favor thermal soaring (e.g., increasing precipitation fraction and decreasing thermal updraft velocity) and their departure from stopovers was associated with improvements in weather that favored thermal development. During stopovers, proportion of activity was negatively associated with precipitation but was positively associated with temperature and thermal updraft velocity. Conclusions: The rapid response of migrating Turkey Vultures to changing weather conditions indicates weather-avoidance is one of the major functions of their stopover use. During stopovers, however, the positive relationship between proportion of movement activity and conditions that promote thermal development suggests not all stopovers are used for weather-avoidance. Our results show that birds are capable of responding rapidly to their environment; therefore, for studies interested in external drivers of weather-related stopovers, it is essential that stopovers be identified at fine temporal scales.
- Data packageData from: Environmental drivers of variability in the movement ecology of turkey vultures (Cathartes aura) in North and South America(2014-04-14) Bildstein, Keith; Barber, David; Bechard, Marc J.NOTE: An updated and larger version of this dataset is available. See https://doi.org/10.5441/001/1.f3qt46r2. ABSTRACT: Variation is key to the adaptability of species and their ability to survive changes to the Earth’s climate and habitats. Plasticity in movement strategies allows a species to better track spatial dynamics of habitat quality. We describe the mechanisms that shape the movement of a long-distance migrant bird (turkey vulture, Cathartes aura) across two continents using satellite tracking coupled with remote-sensing science. Using nearly 10 years of data from 24 satellite-tracked vultures in four distinct populations, we describe an enormous amount of variation in their movement patterns. We related vulture movement to environmental conditions and found important correlations explaining how far they need to move to find food (indexed by the normalized difference vegetation index) and how fast they can move based on the prevalence of thermals and temperature. We conclude that the extensive variability in the movement ecology of turkey vultures, facilitated by their energetically efficient thermal soaring, suggests that this species is likely to do well across periods of modest climate change. The large scale and sample sizes needed for such analysis in a widespread migrant emphasizes the need for integrated and collaborative efforts to obtain tracking data and for policies, tools and open datasets to encourage such collaborations and data sharing.
- Data packageData from: Fine-scale assessment of home ranges and activity patterns for resident black vultures (Coragyps atratus) and turkey vultures (Cathartes aura)(2017-07-11) Holland, Amanda E.; Michael E., ByrneKnowledge of black vulture (Coragyps atratus) and turkey vulture (Cathartes aura) spatial ecology is surprisingly limited despite their vital ecological roles. Fine-scale assessments of space use patterns and resource selection are particularly lacking, although development of tracking technologies has allowed data collection at finer temporal and spatial resolution. Objectives of this study were to conduct the first assessment of monthly home range and core area sizes of resident black and turkey vultures with consideration to sex, as well as elucidate differences in monthly, seasonal, and annual activity patterns based on fine-scale movement data analyses. We collected 2.8-million locations for 9 black and 9 turkey vultures from June 2013 –August 2015 using solar-powered GSM/GPS transmitters. We quantified home ranges and core areas using the dynamic Brownian bridge movement model and evaluated differences as a function of species, sex, and month. Mean monthly home ranges for turkey vultures were ~50% larger than those of black vultures, although mean core area sizes did not differ between species. Turkey vulture home ranges varied little across months, with exception to a notable reduction in space-use in May, which corresponds with timing of chick-rearing activities. Black vulture home ranges and core areas as well as turkey vulture core areas were larger in breeding season months (January–April). Comparison of space use between male and female vultures was only possible for black vultures, and space use was only slightly larger for females during breeding months (February–May). Analysis of activity patterns revealed turkey vultures spend more time in flight and switch motion states (between flight and stationary) more frequently than black vultures across temporal scales. This study reveals substantive variability in space use and activity rates between sympatric black and turkey vultures, providing insights into potential behavioral mechanisms contributing to niche differentiation between these species.