Apr. 30, 2013 — The behaviour of seabirds during migration -- including patterns of foraging, rest and flight -- has been revealed in new detail using novel computational analyses and tracking technologies.
Using a new method called 'ethoinformatics', described as the application of computational methods in the investigation of animal behaviour, scientists have been able to analyse three years of migration data gathered from miniature tracking devices attached to the small seabird the Manx Shearwater (Puffinus puffinus).
The Manx Shearwater is currently on the 'amber' list of UK Birds of Conservation Concern. Up to 80% of the world population breeds in the UK, travelling 20,000km each year in their migrations to South America and back.
In a continuing long-term collaboration, researchers at UCL and the University of Oxford collected data over three consecutive years. In this study, published in the Royal Society journal Interface, they show that the migration of the Manx Shearwater contains a complex pattern of three behavioural states; rest, flight and foraging.
Results indicate that in winter, birds spend much less time foraging and in flight than in breeding season. Also, a much larger proportion of birds' time in the southern hemisphere was spent at rest -- probably a reflection of their release from the demands of reproduction and also the increased costs of flight during the winter.
Dr Robin Freeman, from the UCL COMPLEX (Centre for Mathematics and Physics in the Life Sciences and Experimental Biology), and first author of the study, said: "Understanding the behaviour of these birds during migration is crucial for identifying important at-sea locations and for furthering conservation efforts. By tracking the movements, foraging behaviour and environmental drivers of such species, and developing new techniques to do so is critical as they continue to be subject to environmental and anthropogenic pressure."