Behavioral Ecology



Josh Hull UC Davis
Behavioral Benefits of Mate Familiarity in Pelagic Seabirds

Project Lead: Chris Tyson

For many socially monogamous birds, reproductive success increases with mate familiarity, creating positive selection for long-term pair bonds. This pattern is especially common among pelagic seabirds, many of which display remarkable mate fidelity. Despite the prevalence of this mating system, little is known about the specific behaviors that benefit from mate familiarity. In general, however, it is largely thought that pair experience influences behaviors that rely on coordination during breeding, such as incubating and provisioning. In this project, we are investigating whether increased pair experience leads to improved coordination of breeding behaviors in several species of pelagic seabirds. To do so, we combine extensive datasets of mating histories with detailed observations of breeding behaviors. This approach allows us to compare the behaviors of newly established pairs to that of more experienced pairs. are currently focusing on three species: Leach’s storm-petrels (Oceanodroma leucorhoa), Cassin’s auklets (Ptychoramphus aleuticus), and Manx shearwaters (Puffinus puffinus).

Nesting Ecology and Foraging Behavior of the American Kestrel

Project Lead: Jessica Schlarbaum

The American Kestrel (Falco sparverius) is a widespread falcon species found all over North America and parts of South America. There is evidence that their population has been declining for some time with no definitive cause. While mass amounts of studies have been conducted on this species, few have been conducted on the west coast, and even fewer have looked at the relationship between habitat type and nesting success. This study hopes to give insight into which habitats are most suitable for nesting American Kestrels and possibly direct future nest box projects to install boxes in known successful habitats. Utilizing the availability of nesting pairs of American Kestrels in this study, individual foraging behavior will also be documented in order to assess the hypothesis that American Kestrels each employ a different hunting strategy and prey preference, as opposed to most studies which have analyzed diet and hunting in the species as a whole.