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Variable Leadership in Bar-Headed Geese (Anser Indicus) : an Analysis of Pair and Family Departures

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This paper reports quantitative leadership differences in semi-captive bar-headed geese (Anser indicus) at different times of the year, and in different types of groups. Leading is defined here as causing the departure or determining the direction of movement of the whole group. No permanent and exclusive leader of a pair or family group was found, rather relative leading frequencies of male, female and young showed a definite shifting pattern. Females led more often than their mates prior to breeding, and on nest pauses during the incubation period, but less often in summer, autumn and early winter. In families there was no difference between the frequencies of male and female leading. Family females led relatively more often than those of pairs without offspring. This difference was related to the presence, not the number, of young. Goslings led the family about as often as the parents during the rearing period in early summer, less often in autumn, winter and next spring. Such differences and changes are to be expected where competence in particular tasks and dependence on partners vary between group members, and where different situations require different abilities. For the geese, the results can be related to the different options of group members and to the different benefits they derive from leaving (or 'staying put') or following (or waiting for the others) in different situations.

Affiliations: 1: Max-Planck-Institut für Verhaltensphysiologie, D-8131 Seewiesen, Germany

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