Large birds travel farther in homogeneous environments

Marlee A. Tucker, Olga Alexandrou, Richard O. Bierregaard, Keith L. Bildstein, Katrin Böhning-Gaese, Chloe Bracis, John N. Brzorad, Evan R. Buechley, David Cabot, Justin M. Calabrese, Carlos Carrapato, Andre Chiaradia, Lisa C. Davenport, Sarah C. Davidson, Mark Desholm, Christopher R. DeSorbo, Robert Domenech, Peter Enggist, William F. Fagan, Nina FarwigWolfgang Fiedler, Christen H. Fleming, Alastair Franke, John M. Fryxell, Clara García-Ripollés, David Grémillet, Larry R. Griffin, Roi Harel, Adam Kane, Roland Kays, Erik Kleyheeg, Anne E. Lacy, Scott LaPoint, Rubén Limiñana, Pascual López-López, Alan D. Maccarone, Ugo Mellone, Elizabeth K. Mojica, Ran Nathan, Scott H. Newman, Michael J. Noonan, Steffen Oppel, Mark Prostor, Eileen C. Rees, Yan Ropert-Coudert, Sascha Rösner, Nir Sapir, Dana Schabo, Matthias Schmidt, Holger Schulz, Mitra Shariati, Adam Shreading, João Paulo Silva, Henrik Skov, Orr Spiegel, John Y. Takekawa, Claire S. Teitelbaum, Mariëlle L. van Toor, Vicente Urios, Javier Vidal-Mateo, Qiang Wang, Bryan D. Watts, Martin Wikelski, Kerri Wolter, Ramūnas Žydelis, Thomas Mueller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

37 Citations (Scopus)


Aim: Animal movement is an important determinant of individual survival, population dynamics and ecosystem structure and function. Nonetheless, it is still unclear how local movements are related to resource availability and the spatial arrangement of resources. Using resident bird species and migratory bird species outside the migratory period, we examined how the distribution of resources affects the movement patterns of both large terrestrial birds (e.g., raptors, bustards and hornbills) and waterbirds (e.g., cranes, storks, ducks, geese and flamingos). Location: Global. Time period: 2003–2015. Major taxa studied: Birds. Methods: We compiled GPS tracking data for 386 individuals across 36 bird species. We calculated the straight-line distance between GPS locations of each individual at the 1-hr and 10-day time-scales. For each individual and time-scale, we calculated the median and 0.95 quantile of displacement. We used linear mixed-effects models to examine the effect of the spatial arrangement of resources, measured as enhanced vegetation index homogeneity, on avian movements, while accounting for mean resource availability, body mass, diet, flight type, migratory status and taxonomy and spatial autocorrelation. Results: We found a significant effect of resource spatial arrangement at the 1-hr and 10-day time-scales. On average, individual movements were seven times longer in environments with homogeneously distributed resources compared with areas of low resource homogeneity. Contrary to previous work, we found no significant effect of resource availability, diet, flight type, migratory status or body mass on the non-migratory movements of birds. Main conclusions: We suggest that longer movements in homogeneous environments might reflect the need for different habitat types associated with foraging and reproduction. This highlights the importance of landscape complementarity, where habitat patches within a landscape include a range of different, yet complementary resources. As habitat homogenization increases, it might force birds to travel increasingly longer distances to meet their diverse needs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)576-587
Number of pages12
JournalGlobal Ecology and Biogeography
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2019


  • enhanced vegetation index
  • landscape complementation
  • movement ecology
  • productivity
  • spatial behaviour
  • terrestrial birds
  • waterbirds

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