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Social learning of migratory performance

September 3, 2013

Successful bird migration can depend on individual learning, social learning, and innate navigation programs. Using 8 years of data on migrating whooping cranes, we were able to partition genetic and socially learned aspects of migration. Specifically, we analyzed data from a reintroduced population wherein all birds were captive bred and artificially trained by ultralight aircraft on their first lifetime migration. For subsequent migrations, in which birds fly individually or in groups but without ultralight escort, we found evidence of long-term social learning, but no effect of genetic relatedness on migratory performance. Social learning from older birds reduced deviations from a straight-line path, with 7 years of experience yielding a 38% improvement in migratory accuracy.

Publication Year 2013
Title Social learning of migratory performance
DOI 10.1126/science.1237139
Authors Thomas Mueller, Robert B. O'Hara, Sarah J. Converse, Richard P. Urbanek, William F. Fagan
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Science
Index ID 70047503
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Patuxent Wildlife Research Center