We investigated the functions of perch relocations within a communal night roost of wintering bald eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) along the Nooksack River, Washington, during two winters. We tested seven predictions of two nonexclusive hypotheses: (1) bald eagles relocate within roosts to assess foraging success of conspecifics and (2) bald eagles relocate to obtain thermoregulatory benefits from an improved microclimate. Additionally, we gathered descriptive information to allow refinement of further alternative hypotheses. We rejected the hypothesis that relocations are a means of assessing foraging success. Contrary to our expectations, immature eagles did not relocate to be closer to adults, and relocations were less frequent when food was less abundant. Our data support the hypothesis that eagles relocate within night roosts to obtain a favorable microclimate during winters when they are subjected to cold stress and food stress. In both winters, relocations were more frequent in the evening than in the morning. In both winters, most evening relocations were to the center of the roost rather than to its edge, and the frequency of relocation to the center was greater when temperatures were low. The microclimate hypothesis, however, explains only a limited number of relocations. Based on our findings, it is likely that relocation has multiple functions, including establishing and (or) maintaining foraging associations, establishing and (or) maintaining social-dominance hierarchies when food is less abundant, and nonsocial activities.
Additional publication details
|Publication Subtype||Journal Article|
|Title||Functions of perch relocations in a communal night roost of wintering bald eagles|
|Series title||Canadian Journal of Zoology|
|Publisher||NRC Research Press|
|Contributing office(s)||Fort Collins Science Center|