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Title: Using multiple data sources to investigate foraging niche partitioning in sympatric obligate avian scavengers

Abstract

As carrion feeders competing for a limited and ephemeral resource, avian scavengers are ideal model organisms to study mechanisms of niche partitioning. Previous work has focused on observations of species’ interactions at carcasses, and although fruitful, the inclusion of behavior beyond that at carcasses, such as movement patterns, could yield a more comprehensive understanding of mechanisms of foraging niche partitioning. Our goal was to assess how differences in physiological, morphological, and social characteristics between sympatric black vultures ( Coragyps atratus) and turkey vultures ( Cathartes aura) manifest interspecific variation in movement patterns, foraging habitats, and carcass use to reduce direct competition. Both species are obligate scavengers that co-occur across much of the New World. Turkey vultures are solitary foragers with enhanced olfactory capabilities and wings optimized for energy-efficient low-altitude soaring. Black vultures are aggressive, heavier bodied, and forage socially. We assessed interspecific variation in carcass exploitation using experimental carcass trials encompassing a range of habitats, carcass sizes, and seasons, and used GPS telemetry to compare how soaring conditions influenced daily space use and diurnal patterns of movement activity for each species. Turkey vultures occurred more often at small (i.e., rabbit) carcasses, and those obscured by forest cover than black vultures,more » and were the first vultures recorded at 94% of carcasses visited by both species. Both species increased movement rates and daily ranges when soaring conditions were favorable; however, turkey vultures had higher travel rates regardless of soaring conditions. Our results suggest the olfactory sense of turkey vultures allows them to locate smaller and visually obscured carcasses more efficiently than black vultures, facilitated by wing morphology that allows them to forage over large areas efficiently. Socially foraging black vultures appear specialized at locating larger carcasses in open habitats, which does not require as much foraging flight as turkey vultures. Our study illustrates how inclusion of movement ecology into niche partitioning studies provides a more complete understanding of the mechanisms of coexistence in avian scavenger guilds. This approach may provide important information to guide conservation efforts, such as supplemental feeding, of imperiled vulture species.« less

Authors:
 [1];  [1];  [2];  [1];  [2]
  1. Savannah River Site (SRS), Aiken, SC (United States). Savannah River Ecology Lab. (SREL)
  2. Savannah River Site (SRS), Aiken, SC (United States). Savannah River Ecology Lab. (SREL); Univ. of Georgia, Athens, GA (United States)
Publication Date:
Research Org.:
Univ. of Georgia, Athens, GA (United States)
Sponsoring Org.:
USDOE Office of Environmental Management (EM)
OSTI Identifier:
1614636
Grant/Contract Number:  
EM0004391
Resource Type:
Journal Article: Accepted Manuscript
Journal Name:
Ecosphere
Additional Journal Information:
Journal Volume: 10; Journal Issue: 1; Journal ID: ISSN 2150-8925
Publisher:
Ecological Society of America
Country of Publication:
United States
Language:
English
Subject:
54 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES; 60 APPLIED LIFE SCIENCES; Environmental Sciences & Ecology; black vulture; Cathartes aura; Coragyps atratus; movement ecology; niche differentiation; resource specialization; telemetry; turkey vulture.

Citation Formats

Byrne, Michael E., Holland, Amanda E., Turner, Kelsey L., Bryan, A. Lawrence, and Beasley, James C. Using multiple data sources to investigate foraging niche partitioning in sympatric obligate avian scavengers. United States: N. p., 2019. Web. doi:10.1002/ecs2.2548.
Byrne, Michael E., Holland, Amanda E., Turner, Kelsey L., Bryan, A. Lawrence, & Beasley, James C. Using multiple data sources to investigate foraging niche partitioning in sympatric obligate avian scavengers. United States. doi:10.1002/ecs2.2548.
Byrne, Michael E., Holland, Amanda E., Turner, Kelsey L., Bryan, A. Lawrence, and Beasley, James C. Thu . "Using multiple data sources to investigate foraging niche partitioning in sympatric obligate avian scavengers". United States. doi:10.1002/ecs2.2548. https://www.osti.gov/servlets/purl/1614636.
@article{osti_1614636,
title = {Using multiple data sources to investigate foraging niche partitioning in sympatric obligate avian scavengers},
author = {Byrne, Michael E. and Holland, Amanda E. and Turner, Kelsey L. and Bryan, A. Lawrence and Beasley, James C.},
abstractNote = {As carrion feeders competing for a limited and ephemeral resource, avian scavengers are ideal model organisms to study mechanisms of niche partitioning. Previous work has focused on observations of species’ interactions at carcasses, and although fruitful, the inclusion of behavior beyond that at carcasses, such as movement patterns, could yield a more comprehensive understanding of mechanisms of foraging niche partitioning. Our goal was to assess how differences in physiological, morphological, and social characteristics between sympatric black vultures (Coragyps atratus) and turkey vultures (Cathartes aura) manifest interspecific variation in movement patterns, foraging habitats, and carcass use to reduce direct competition. Both species are obligate scavengers that co-occur across much of the New World. Turkey vultures are solitary foragers with enhanced olfactory capabilities and wings optimized for energy-efficient low-altitude soaring. Black vultures are aggressive, heavier bodied, and forage socially. We assessed interspecific variation in carcass exploitation using experimental carcass trials encompassing a range of habitats, carcass sizes, and seasons, and used GPS telemetry to compare how soaring conditions influenced daily space use and diurnal patterns of movement activity for each species. Turkey vultures occurred more often at small (i.e., rabbit) carcasses, and those obscured by forest cover than black vultures, and were the first vultures recorded at 94% of carcasses visited by both species. Both species increased movement rates and daily ranges when soaring conditions were favorable; however, turkey vultures had higher travel rates regardless of soaring conditions. Our results suggest the olfactory sense of turkey vultures allows them to locate smaller and visually obscured carcasses more efficiently than black vultures, facilitated by wing morphology that allows them to forage over large areas efficiently. Socially foraging black vultures appear specialized at locating larger carcasses in open habitats, which does not require as much foraging flight as turkey vultures. Our study illustrates how inclusion of movement ecology into niche partitioning studies provides a more complete understanding of the mechanisms of coexistence in avian scavenger guilds. This approach may provide important information to guide conservation efforts, such as supplemental feeding, of imperiled vulture species.},
doi = {10.1002/ecs2.2548},
journal = {Ecosphere},
issn = {2150-8925},
number = 1,
volume = 10,
place = {United States},
year = {2019},
month = {1}
}

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    Works referencing / citing this record:

    Evidence of niche differentiation for two sympatric vulture species in the Southeastern United States
    journal, October 2019

    • Holland, Amanda E.; Byrne, Michael E.; Hepinstall-Cymerman, Jeffrey
    • Movement Ecology, Vol. 7, Issue 1
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