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Ferruginous Hawk movements respond predictably to intra-annual variation but unexpectedly to anthropogenic habitats

May 25, 2023

Birds exhibit flexible movement responses to environmental variation across the annual cycle, and those responses can provide insight into potential impacts that environmental changes may have on these species. To understand year-round variation in space use by Ferruginous Hawks Buteo regalis, we tracked 12 birds breeding in southwestern Idaho, USA, using GPS telemetry collected over 207 bird-months. Home-range sizes of territorial adult hawks showed strong intra-annual variation, being smallest from April to June and largest from July to October. In contrast, juvenile birds (< 2 years old) did not appear to hold territories and showed no detectable intra-annual variation in ranging behaviour. Association with land-cover types by territorial birds varied between breeding and non-breeding months and was linked to home-range size. Home-range sizes of non-territorial birds were larger than those of territorial birds, and that size did not vary across the year. Association with anthropogenic habitats (irrigated cropland habitats that can provide high rodent densities and increased foraging opportunities) was negatively associated with home-range size in months of the non-breeding season. Unexpectedly, the opposite was true in the months of the breeding season, such that use of croplands resulted in larger home-ranges. Patterns in home-range size were probably linked to intrinsic factors such as the timing of breeding and migratory behaviour, and to extrinsic factors such as prey availability associated with specific land-cover types. These results have implications for our understanding of the response of Ferruginous Hawks and other similar species to predicted changes in land cover, and they suggest unexpected relationships between human activity and wildlife behaviour. Furthermore, because the birds we tracked used a large portion of western North America, they are probably relevant far beyond the small area where these individuals were trapped.

Publication Year 2023
Title Ferruginous Hawk movements respond predictably to intra-annual variation but unexpectedly to anthropogenic habitats
DOI 10.1111/ibi.13200
Authors Georgia H. Isted, Robert J. Thomas, Kevin S. Warner, Matthew J. Stuber, Ethan A. Ellsworth, Todd E. Katzner
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Ibis
Index ID 70243934
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Forest and Rangeland Ecosystem Science Center