It may seem like birds have the freedom to fly wherever they like, but researchers at the University of Missouri have shown that what's on the ground has a great effect on where a bird flies. This information could be used by foresters and urban planners to improve bird habitats that would help maintain strong bird populations.
"Movement of individuals influences nearly every aspect of biology, from the existence of a single population to interactions within and among species," said Dylan Kesler, assistant professor in fisheries and wildlife at the University of Missouri's School of Natural Resources. "Movement determines where individual birds procreate. How they spread across the landscape affects who meets whom, which in turn dictates how genes are spread."Kesler has found that non-migrating resident birds tend to travel over forest "corridors," which are areas protected by trees and used by wildlife to travel. Birds choose to travel over forests because they can make an easier escape from predators as well as find food.
"In many territorial resident birds, natal dispersal is the only time an individual bird makes a substantial movement from one location to another," Kesler said. "Natal dispersal is, therefore, integral to gene flow among populations, colonizing vacant habitat, inbreeding avoidance and maintaining optimal population densities."
This year's work builds upon research Kesler has been conducting since 2005 on three species of woodpeckers and two Pacific island kingfishers. The study is funded by a University of Missouri program to encourage new faculty. Results will be published this fall in conservation-oriented science journals. Results from Kesler's previous research about dispersal appeared in the nation's top ornithological journal, The Auk, and another paper will soon be published in Behavioral Ecology.
Christian Basi | EurekAlert!
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