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Diurnal timing of nonmigratory movement by birds: The importance of foraging spatial scales

October 19, 2020

Timing of activity can reveal an organism's efforts to optimize foraging either by minimizing energy loss through passive movement or by maximizing energetic gain through foraging. Here, we assess whether signals of either of these strategies are detectable in the timing of activity of daily, local movements by birds. We compare the similarities of timing of movement activity among species using six temporal variables: start of activity relative to sunrise, end of activity relative to sunset, relative speed at midday, number of movement bouts, bout duration, and proportion of active daytime hours. We test for the influence of flight mode and foraging habitat on the timing of movement activity across avian guilds. We used 64570 days of GPS movement data collected between 2002 and 2019 for local (non‐migratory) movements of 991 birds from 49 species, representing 14 orders. Dissimilarity among daily activity patterns was best explained by flight mode. Terrestrial soaring birds began activity later and stopped activity earlier than pelagic soaring or flapping birds. Broad‐scale foraging habitat explained less of the clustering patterns because of divergent timing of active periods of pelagic surface and diving foragers. Among pelagic birds, surface foragers were active throughout the day while diving foragers matched their active hours more closely to daylight hours. Pelagic surface foragers also had the greatest daily foraging distances, which was consistent with their daytime activity patterns. This study demonstrates that flight mode and foraging habitat influence temporal patterns of daily movement activity of birds.