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A Stochastic Analysis of the Maintenance Behaviour of Skylarks

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The paper attempts to describe the maintenance behaviour of Skylarks Alauda arvensis using conventional qualitative and quantitative descriptive frameworks and, as a new technique, random event series analysis. It is based on behaviour records of individually marked birds which were observed in the field for extended periods. Starting from frequency analysis and using random signal analysis as a stepping stone the rationale of random event analysis is briefly explained. Some of the problems involved in considering behaviour sequences as signals and the implications of viewing animals as black box systems, particularly when only the output i.e. behaviour, is available, are reviewed. The limitations of random event analysis for dealing with non-stationarity and non-linearity are considered. A qualitative description of the maintenance behaviour follows. Some information is given on the behavioural responses to environmental stimuli, particularly to the arrival of the observer. The sequential organisation of the behaviour in terms of transition probabilities is presented next. Deviations from a null order model are found when the behaviour events are separated by less than a minute and some of the implications are briefly mentioned. In a special subsection the sequential organisation of preening is similarly treated but on the basis of too few data to give any conclusive result. Then the distribution of intervals between the various behaviour patterns are given in a matrix form and some indications of deviations of random occurrence are found and discussed. A matrix of inter-behaviour correlations based on the frequency of behavioural events per various time units is presented and the finding that the duration of time units affects the correlations is discussed. In this context some correlation coefficients with non-maintenance behaviour are given and they support the idea that the comfort patterns may be related to a sleep syndrome. Matrices of auto-and cross-correlation functions and the related intensity functions support the view that frequency correlation matrices are not capable of imparting information on an important characteristic of interbehaviour relationships, the time dependent dynamic responses. Lastly, the transformation of the correlation function, the auto- and cross-spectra, are presented for comfort behaviour and flying. These support the notion that comfort behaviour is affected by rhythmical processes while flying is shown in an essentially random fashion. Little systematic relationship was found between comfort behaviour and flying as reflected by the transfer and coherence functions. In the discussion the various quantitative descriptive formats are briefly discussed and some of the objections to the use of advanced analytical techniques are dealt with. The implications of these techniques for models of behaviour are discussed and the complexity of interactions between the causal processes leading to behaviour are stressed. Finally some suggestions for future work are offered.

Affiliations: 1: Dept. of Zoology, Oxford, and Dept. of Psychology, Durham, England


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