Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution (2019-08-01)

Dynamic-Parameter Movement Models Reveal Drivers of Migratory Pace in a Soaring Bird

  • Joseph M. Eisaguirre,
  • Joseph M. Eisaguirre,
  • Marie Auger-Méthé,
  • Marie Auger-Méthé,
  • Christopher P. Barger,
  • Stephen B. Lewis,
  • Travis L. Booms,
  • Greg A. Breed,
  • Greg A. Breed

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 7


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Long distance migration can increase lifetime fitness, but can be costly, incurring increased energetic expenses and higher mortality risks. Stopover and other en route behaviors allow animals to rest and replenish energy stores and avoid or mitigate other hazards during migration. Some animals, such as soaring birds, can subsidize the energetic costs of migration by extracting energy from flowing air. However, it is unclear how these energy sources affect or interact with behavioral processes and stopover in long-distance soaring migrants. To understand these behaviors and the effects of processes that might enhance use of flight subsidies, we developed a flexible mechanistic model to predict how flight subsidies drive migrant behavior and movement processes. The novel modeling framework incorporated time-varying parameters informed by environmental covariates to characterize a continuous range of behaviors during migration. This model framework was fit to GPS satellite telemetry data collected from a large soaring and opportunist foraging bird, the golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetos), during migration in western North America. Fitted dynamic model parameters revealed a clear circadian rhythm in eagle movement and behavior, which was directly related to thermal uplift. Behavioral budgets were complex, however, with evidence for a joint migrating/foraging behavior, resembling a slower paced fly-and-forage migration, which could facilitate efficient refueling while still ensuring migration progress. In previous work, ecological and foraging conditions are usually considered to be the key aspects of stopover location quality, but taxa, such as the golden eagle, that can tap energy sources from moving fluids to drive migratory locomotion may pace migration based on both foraging opportunities and available flight subsidies.