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Social eavesdropping allows for a more risky gliding strategy by thermal-soaring birds
Journal of The Royal Society Interface, Volume: 15, Issue: 148, Start page: 20180578
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Vultures are thought to form networks in the sky, with individuals monitoring the movements of others to gain up-to-date information on resource availability. While it is recognised that social information facilitates the search for carrion, how this facilitates the search for updrafts, another crit...
|Published in:||Journal of The Royal Society Interface|
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Vultures are thought to form networks in the sky, with individuals monitoring the movements of others to gain up-to-date information on resource availability. While it is recognised that social information facilitates the search for carrion, how this facilitates the search for updrafts, another critical resource, remains unknown. In theory, birds could use information on updraft availability to modulate their flight speed, increasing their airspeed when informed on updraft location. In addition, the stylised circling behaviour associated with thermal soaring is likely to provide social cues on updraft availability for any bird operating in the surrounding area. We equipped five Gyps vultures with GPS and airspeed loggers to quantify the movements of birds flying in the same airspace. Birds that were socially informed on updraft availability immediately adopted higher airspeeds on entering the inter-thermal glide; a strategy that would be risky if birds were relying on personal information alone. This was embedded within a broader pattern of a reduction in airspeed (~3 m/s) through the glide, likely reflecting the need for low speed to sense and turn into the next thermal. Overall, this demonstrates, (i) the complexity of factors affecting speed selection over fine temporal scales, and (ii) that Gyps vultures respond to social information on the occurrence of energy in the aerial environment, which may reduce uncertainty in their movement decisions.
Flight, social information, movement ecology, aeroecology, airspeed, risk
College of Science