The flight of the hornbill: drift and diffusion in arboreal avian movement

Publication Type:

Journal Articles

Source:

Scientific Reports, Volume 11, Issue 5591 (2021)

URL:

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-021-84074-3

Abstract:

<p>Capturing movement of animals in mathematical models has long been a keenly pursued direction of research1. Any good model of animal movement is built upon information about the animal’s environment and the available resources including whether prey is in abundance or scarce, densely distributed or sparse2. Such an approach could enable the identification of certain quantities or measures from the model that are species-specific characteristics. We propose here a mechanistic model to describe the movement of two species of Asian hornbills in a resource-abundant heterogenous landscape which includes degraded forests and human settlements. Hornbill telemetry data was used to this end. The birds show a bias both towards features of attraction such as nesting and roosting sites as well as possible bias away from points of repulsion such as human presence. These biases are accounted for with suitable potentials. The spatial patterns of movement are analyzed using the Fokker–Planck equation, which helps explain the variation in movement of different individuals. Search times to target locations were calculated using first passage time equations dual to the Fokker–Planck equations. We also find that the diffusion coefficients are larger for breeding birds than for non-breeding ones—a manifestation of repeated switching of directions to move back to the nest from foraging sites. The degree of directedness towards nests and roosts is captured by the drift coefficients. Non-breeding hornbills show similar values of the ratio of the two coefficients irrespective of the fact that their movement data is available from different seasons. Therefore, the ratio of drift to diffusion coefficients is indicative of an individual’s breeding status, as seen from available data. It could possibly also characterize different species. For all individuals, first passage times increase with proximity to human settlements, in agreement with the premise that anthropogenic activities close to nesting/roosting sites are not desirable.</p>