Consistent avoidance of human disturbance over large geographical distances by a migratory bird

Z Vegvari, Z Barta, P Mustakallio, Tamas Szekely

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18 Citations (SciVal)
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Recent work on animal personalities has demonstrated that individuals may show consistent behaviour across situations and contexts. These studies were often carried out in one location and/or during short time intervals. Many animals, however, migrate and spend their life in several geographically distinct locations, and they may either adopt behaviours specific to the local environment or keep consistent behaviours over ecologically distinct locations. Long-distance migratory species offer excellent opportunities to test whether the animals maintain their personalities over large geographical scale, although the practical difficulties associated with these studies have hampered such tests. Here, we demonstrate for the first time consistency in disturbance tolerance behaviour in a long-distance migratory bird, using the common crane Grus grus as an ecological model species. Cranes that hatched in undisturbed habitats in Finland choose undisturbed migratory stop-over sites in Hungary, 1300-2000 km away from their breeding ground. This is remarkable, because these sites are not only separated by large distances, they also differ ecologically: the breeding sites are wooded bogs and subarctic tundra, whereas the migratory stop-over sites are temperate zone alkaline grasslands. The significance of our study goes beyond evolutionary biology and behavioural ecology: local effects on behaviour may carry over large distances, and this hitherto hidden implication of habitat selection needs to be incorporated into conservation planning.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)814-817
Number of pages4
JournalBiology Letters
Issue number6
Early online date5 May 2011
Publication statusPublished - 23 Dec 2011


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