Diurnal timing of nonmigratory movement by birds: the importance of foraging spatial scales

Publication Date


Document Type



Biological Sciences

Publication Title

Journal of Avian Biology








Timing of activity can reveal an organism's efforts to optimize foraging either by minimizing energy loss through passive movement or by maximizing energetic gain through foraging. Here, we assess whether signals of either of these strategies are detectable in the timing of activity of daily, local movements by birds. We compare the similarities of timing of movement activity among species using six temporal variables: start of activity relative to sunrise, end of activity relative to sunset, relative speed at midday, number of movement bouts, bout duration and proportion of active daytime hours. We test for the influence of flight mode and foraging habitat on the timing of movement activity across avian guilds. We used 64 570 days of GPS movement data collected between 2002 and 2019 for local (non-migratory) movements of 991 birds from 49 species, representing 14 orders. Dissimilarity among daily activity patterns was best explained by flight mode. Terrestrial soaring birds began activity later and stopped activity earlier than pelagic soaring or flapping birds. Broad-scale foraging habitat explained less of the clustering patterns because of divergent timing of active periods of pelagic surface and diving foragers. Among pelagic birds, surface foragers were active throughout all 24 hrs of the day while diving foragers matched their active hours more closely to daylight hours. Pelagic surface foragers also had the greatest daily foraging distances, which was consistent with their daytime activity patterns. This study demonstrates that flight mode and foraging habitat influence temporal patterns of daily movement activity of birds.

Funding Number


Funding Sponsor

U.S. Department of Energy


flight mode, foraging, movement ecology, multispecies, nonmigratory, temporal


Full author list: Julie M. Mallon, Marlee A. Tucker, Annalea Beard, Richard O. Bierregaard Jr., Keith L. Bildstein, Katrin Böhning-Gaese, John N. Brzorad, Evan R. Buechley, Javier Bustamante, Carlos Carrapato, José Alfredo Castillo-Guerrero, Elizabeth Clingham, Mark Desholm, Christopher R. DeSorbo, Robert Domenech, Hayley Douglas, Olivier Duriez, Peter Enggist, Nina Farwig, Wolfgang Fiedler, Anna Gagliardo, Clara García-Ripollés, José Antonio Gil Gallús, Morgan E. Gilmour, Roi Harel, Autumn-Lynn Harrison, Leeann Henry, Todd E. Katzner, Roland Kays, Erik Kleyheeg, Rubén Limiñana, Pascual López-López, Giuseppe Lucia, Alan Maccarone, Egidio Mallia, Ugo Mellone, Elizabeth K. Mojica, Ran Nathan, Scott H. Newman, Steffen Oppel, Yotam Orchan, Diann J. Prosser, Hannah Riley, Sascha Rösner, Dana G. Schabo, Holger Schulz, Scott Shaffer, Adam Shreading, João Paulo Silva, Jolene Sim, Henrik Skov, Orr Spiegel, Matthew J. Stuber, John Y. Takekawa, Vicente Urios, Javier Vidal-Mateo, Kevin Warner, Bryan D. Watts, Nicola Weber, Sam Weber, Martin Wikelski, Ramunas Žydelis, Thomas Mueller and William F. Fagan.