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Stochastic Properties of the Foraging Behavior of Six Species of Migratory Shorebirds

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A statistical description of the temporal and sequential organization of foraging behavior in six species of migrant shorebirds is presented. Intervals between successive pr.edation attempts produce distributions approximating gamma or exponential probability laws. These distributions undergo seasonal changes in the direction of more shorter intervals in winter. The events constituting the intervals between predation attempts exhibit ecologically meaningful relationships and their analysis has provided some insight into the mechanisms of behavioral control. Testable hypotheses may be suggested from these results. Sequential patterns of foraging events show strong second order redundancy (Markovian) but have weaker dependencies extending over higher orders. As a result of this analysis it was found that stereotypy in foraging behavior was higher in winter. The findings of this detailed analysis of hunting strategy correspond to the results of a coarse analysis of behavior reported previously (BAKER, I97I). The methods used here may be generally useful in studying the evolution of ecological behavior.

Affiliations: 1: The Rockefeller University, New York, New York, U.S.A.


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