Landscape Ecology

, Volume 26, Issue 1, pp 47–58 | Cite as

Integrating GIS and homing experiments to study avian movement costs

  • A. Desrochers
  • M. Bélisle
  • J. Morand-Ferron
  • J. Bourque
Research Article


Forest cover reduction may affect movements of forest animals, but resistance to animal movements in and out of forests remains unknown despite its importance for modelling. We tested whether ovenbird (Seiurus aurocapilla), a forest-interior songbird, responds similarly to the amount of forest cover while moving locally (~2 km) and over entire landscapes (~25 km). We compared spatially-explicit simulations to field data to address the issue of resistance to movement in open areas. We caught, banded and translocated 143 territorial males 0.8–27 km away from their territory early in the breeding season. Seventy-eight percent and 50% of translocated males returned (homed) within 10 days following “local” and “landscape” translocations respectively. Independent of translocation distance, homing times increased with decreasing forest in the landscape. With a Geographic Information System (GIS), we simulated “least-cost” paths that homing ovenbirds would ideally take, when resistance to movement in open areas ranged 1–1000 times the resistance to movement in forest. The length, the cumulative cost, and variability of simulated least-cost movement paths increased with increasing resistance in open areas. With landscape translocations, least-cost path length explained homing time better than Euclidean distance, and based on an information-theoretic approach, resistance to movement was estimated to be 27 times greater in open areas than in forests (95% confidence interval: 16–45). However, least-cost path length did not perform better than Euclidean distance with local translocations, and the cumulative cost of least-cost paths was not associated to homing time in either translocation scale. We conclude that resistance to animal movements in open areas can be addressed by a combination of GIS modelling and translocation experiments, and is between one and two orders of magnitude greater than resistance to movements in forests, in the case of ovenbirds.


Homing behavior Forest fragmentation Dispersal Field experiment Least-cost path Gap crossing Animal movement Birds Ornithology Translocation 



We thank Bruno Drolet, Kim Lowell, Michel Dormier and Martine Lapointe for their help with image analysis, and the Canadian Wildlife Service for providing a classified satellite image of the study area. Thanks to Steve Cumming, Eliot McIntire, two anonymous reviewers, the Animal Ecology group at our faculty, as well as the Population Studies group at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, for thoughtful input about this paper. Funds for this research were provided by NSERC and Université Laval. This research was conducted under Animal Care permits from the Comité de protection des animaux de l’Université Laval.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • A. Desrochers
    • 1
  • M. Bélisle
    • 2
  • J. Morand-Ferron
    • 3
  • J. Bourque
    • 4
  1. 1.Centre d’étude de la forêt, Faculté de foresterie et de géomatiqueUniversité LavalQuébecCanada
  2. 2.Chaire de recherche du Canada en écologie spatiale et en écologie du paysage, Département de biologieUniversité de SherbrookeSherbrookeCanada
  3. 3.Edward Grey Institute, Department of ZoologyOxford UniversityOxfordUK
  4. 4.Statistics CanadaOttawaCanada

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