Socially aware seabirds are more likely to find food successfully

Animals that are based on a central place, and head out from their to find food, face an especially daunting problem of finding prey when prey are ephemeral and found in unpredictable places. A new model now shows that colonial seabirds foraging for fish like anchoveta can use social information to help them find their prey. Notably, if outgoing birds track the direction of homeward-bound birds, and follow their path back to their last foraging location, they are more likely to end up in prey-rich places. Once they are there, they can enhance their chances of finding prey if the look for actively feeding birds and search for prey in the same local places. These two strategies greatly enhance the chance of finding prey that might be here today and gone tomorrow. The new research by SAFS research scientist Charlotte Boyd and SAFS Profs George Hunt and André Punt, and their coauthors, appears in the journal Behavioral Ecology.

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