GPS tracking data reveals daily spatio-temporal movement patterns of waterfowl

Movement Ecology
By: , and 




Spatio-temporal patterns of movement can characterize relationships between organisms and their surroundings, and address gaps in our understanding of species ecology, activity budgets, bioenergetics, and habitat resource management. Highly mobile waterfowl, which can exploit resources over large spatial extents, are excellent models to understand relationships between movements and resource usage, landscape interactions and specific habitat needs.


We tracked 3 species of dabbling ducks with GPS-GSM transmitters in 2015–17 to examine fine-scale movement patterns over 24 h periods (30 min interval), dividing movement pathways into temporally continuous segments and spatially contiguous patches. We quantified distances moved, area used and time allocated across the day, using linear and generalized linear mixed models. We investigated behavior through relationships between these variables.


Movements and space-use were small, and varied by species, sex and season. Gadwall (Mareca strepera) generally moved least (FFDs: 0.5–0.7 km), but their larger foraging patches resulted from longer within-area movements. Pintails (Anas acuta) moved most, were more likely to conduct flights > 300 m, had FFDs of 0.8–1.1 km, used more segments and patches per day that they revisited more frequently, resulting in the longest daily total movements. Females and males differed only during the post-hunt season when females moved more. 23.6% of track segments were short duration (1–2 locations), approximately 1/3 more than would be expected if they occurred randomly, and were more dispersed in the landscape than longer segments. Distance moved in 30 min shortened as segment duration increased, likely reflecting phases of non-movement captured within segments.


Pacific Flyway ducks spend the majority of time using smaller foraging and resting areas than expected or previously reported, implying that foraging areas may be highly localized, and nutrients obtainable from smaller areas. Additionally, movement reductions over time demonstrates behavioral adjustments that represent divergent energetic demands, the detection of which is a key advantage of higher frequency data. Ducks likely use less energy for movement than currently predicted and management, including distribution and configuration of essential habitat, may require reconsideration. Our study illustrates how fine-scale movement data from tracking help understand and inform various other fields of research.

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title GPS tracking data reveals daily spatio-temporal movement patterns of waterfowl
Series title Movement Ecology
DOI 10.1186/s40462-019-0146-8
Volume 7
Year Published 2019
Language English
Publisher BMC
Contributing office(s) Western Ecological Research Center
Description Article 6; 17 p.
First page 1
Last page 17
Country United States
State California
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