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Individual and seasonal variation in the movement behavior of two tropical nectarivorous birds

  • Smetzer, Jennifer R.1
  • Paxton, Kristina L.1
  • Paxton, Eben H.2
  • 1 University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo, Hawai‘i National Park, HI, 96718, USA , Hawai‘i National Park (United States)
  • 2 U.S. Geological Survey Pacific Island Ecosystems Research Center, Hawai‘i National Park, HI, 96718, USA , Hawai‘i National Park (United States)
Published Article
Movement Ecology
BioMed Central
Publication Date
Jul 07, 2021
DOI: 10.1186/s40462-021-00275-5
Springer Nature
  • Research


BackgroundMovement of animals directly affects individual fitness, yet fine spatial and temporal resolution movement behavior has been studied in relatively few small species, particularly in the tropics. Nectarivorous Hawaiian honeycreepers are believed to be highly mobile throughout the year, but their fine-scale movement patterns remain unknown. The movement behavior of these crucial pollinators has important implications for forest ecology, and for mortality from avian malaria (Plasmodium relictum), an introduced disease that does not occur in high-elevation forests where Hawaiian honeycreepers primarily breed.MethodsWe used an automated radio telemetry network to track the movement of two Hawaiian honeycreeper species, the ʻapapane (Himatione sanguinea) and ʻiʻiwi (Drepanis coccinea). We collected high temporal and spatial resolution data across the annual cycle. We identified movement strategies using a multivariate analysis of movement metrics and assessed seasonal changes in movement behavior.ResultsBoth species exhibited multiple movement strategies including sedentary, central place foraging, commuting, and nomadism , and these movement strategies occurred simultaneously across the population. We observed a high degree of intraspecific variability at the individual and population level. The timing of the movement strategies corresponded well with regional bloom patterns of ‘ōhi‘a (Metrosideros polymorpha) the primary nectar source for the focal species. Birds made long-distance flights, including multi-day forays outside the tracking array, but exhibited a high degree of fidelity to a core use area, even in the non-breeding period. Both species visited elevations where avian malaria can occur but exhibited little seasonal change in elevation (< 150 m) and regularly returned to high-elevation roosts at night.ConclusionsThis study demonstrates the power of automated telemetry to study complex and fine-scale movement behaviors in rugged tropical environments. Our work reveals a system in which birds can track shifting resources using a diverse set of movement behaviors and can facultatively respond to environmental change. Importantly, fidelity to high-elevation roosting sites minimizes nocturnal exposure to avian malaria for far-ranging individuals and is thus a beneficial behavior that may be under high selection pressure.

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