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Changes of movement patterns from early dispersal to settlement

Abstract

Moving and spatial learning are two intertwined processes: (a) changes in movement behavior determine the learning of the spatial environment, and (b) information plays a crucial role in several animal decision-making processes like movement decisions. A useful way to explore the interactions between movement decisions and learning of the spatial environment is by comparing individual behaviors during the different phases of natal dispersal (when individuals move across more or less unknown habitats) with movements and choices of breeders (who repeatedly move within fixed home ranges), that is, by comparing behaviors between individuals who are still acquiring information vs. individuals with a more complete knowledge of their surroundings. When analyzing movement patterns of eagle owls, Bubo bubo, belonging to three status classes (floaters wandering across unknown environments, floaters already settled in temporary settlement areas, and territory owners with a well-established home range), we found that: (1) wandering individuals move faster than when established in a more stable or fixed settlement area, traveling larger and straighter paths with longer move steps; and (2) when floaters settle in a permanent area, then they show movement behavior similar to territory owners. Thus, movement patterns show a transition from exploratory strategies, when animals have incomplete environmental information, to a more familiar way to exploit their activity areas as they get to know the environment better.

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Acknowledgments

For their help in the field work, we are grateful to P. Bartolommei, R. Lourenço, and G. Penteriani. The first draft was improved by the criticisms of R. Avni and E. Revilla. We are grateful to E. Korpimäki and two anonymous referees for their comments on the first draft of the manuscript. The work was funded by a research project of the Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation (CGL2008-02871/BOS). During this work, M. M. Delgado was supported by a postdoctoral grant of the Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation. We manipulated and marked owls under the Junta de Andalucía—Consejería de Medio Ambiente permit nos. SCFFS-AFR/GGG RS-260/02 and SCFFS-AFR/CMM RS-1904/02.

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Correspondence to María del Mar Delgado.

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Communicated by E. Korpimäki

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Delgado, M.M., Penteriani, V., Nams, V.O. et al. Changes of movement patterns from early dispersal to settlement. Behav Ecol Sociobiol 64, 35–43 (2009). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00265-009-0815-5

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Keywords

  • Bubo bubo
  • Familiarity
  • Floater
  • Learning
  • Movement behavior
  • Natal dispersal