INSTITUTO DE DIVERSIDAD Y ECOLOGIA ANIMAL
Unidad Ejecutora - UE
Effects of group size, habitat type, and hunting risk on vigilance and feeding behaviour in the Lesser Rhea (Rhea pennata pennata)
BARRI, F., ; ROLDAN, N.; NAVARRO, J.L.; MARTELLA, M.B.
Año: 2012 vol. 112 p. 67 - 67
Gregariousness is a known anti-predator strategy, but factors other than the size of groups, such as the levels of predation pressure or habitat, can affect vigilance and foraging behaviour in birds. We studied the effects of group size, habitat (shrubland steppe v. meadows), and risk of hunting by humans (protected core area v. edge area exposed to poaching) on vigilance and foraging behaviour of wild populations of the Lesser Rhea (Rhea pennata pennata), a near-threatened ratite, in north-western Patagonia, Argentina. On average, Lesser Rheas allocated 18% of their time to vigilance and 67% to foraging. Individuals tended to be more vigilant with declining group size, in areas with low visibility that hinders escape by running, and in areas exposed to hunting, than in open habitats with abundant food or sites with low risk of hunting. Although time spent foraging was also influenced by habitat type and hunting risk, there was no direct relationship between foraging time and group size. As in other species of ratite, Lesser Rheas seem to take advantage of flocking as an anti-predation strategy. Our data do not only confirm the influence of group size, but also of habitat structure and hunting risk, in determining the behaviour of this flightless bird in the wild.