Introduction every few minutes to watch out for predators

Introduction

As part of our animal
behaviour module for our Animal Science course, we had to do a study on group
living. We chose to do a study on vigilance behaviour in a group of Barnacle
geese.

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Throughout this
assignment I am going to be discussing about vigilance behaviour in barnacle
geese and how we carried out the observation. 
I will be comparing vigilance behaviour in different group living
settings and how it may vary from species to species. Step by step will be
explained how it would be carried out and how you would prepare in advance for
the day and how to chose the right setting or area to carry out your research.
I also will be discussing result with charts and figures and speaking about any
limitations I may have come across carrying out the observation on vigilance
behaviour.  I am to carry out research on
three articles to see what methods will suit best. I then will discuss my
findings and talk about if I would do anything different in future.

Barnacle geese

 According to articles we were given to go with
the DVD in class that Ive studied barnacle geese migrate from Greenland to the
Uk for winter and then they fly back to Greenland to raise their chicks in late
spring.  They migrate to the UK by
instinct for the winter. Barnacle geese
feed along the marshy lands near the shore line in salty marshy areas and
farmland. They tend to forage in family units across the area. Larger groups
will be stronger and notice a predator quicker than a smaller group would.
There is always a danger of predation when foraging that’s why it is good to be
vigilant especially in small groups. They always feed and then look up every
few minutes to watch out for predators to stop predation occurring.

“Barnacle geese that arrive at Loch Gruinart to
overwinter have spent the preceding spring and summer in Greenland raising
their chicks. In late autumn they leave Greenland and migrate, via Iceland, to
the rich feeding grounds of the UK, a total of 3 000 km. The geese migrate by
instinct, past experience and the position of the sun and the stars.Throughout
the winter the younger geese learn where best to feed and how to survive by
foraging with their family groups.When an individual is foraging it has to
balance the risk of feeding with the risk of possible predation.” (Black, n.d.)
 (Black, n.d.)

House finches

According to a study done
by the university of Arizona in house finches the position in the group you are
influences whether you have to be vigilant for predators or not such as being
in the middle of the group means you are a lot safer than the row on the
outside as your more covered in and the outer row is more likely to be attacked
before anyone covered in the inside would.This is similar to Barnacle geese as
they show the same vigilance behaviour.

 “One of
the advantages of living in groups is the increased safety from predation. This
advantage is so important to the animals that it has even been recognized as a
possible reason for social evolution.Several theoretical models and some
empirical data has also shown that the physical location of individuals within
the group also influences whether they are vigilant or not” (Arizona, n.d.)

This means they have to
be the vigilant ones constantly scanning for predators. So this means that the
times for foraging and vigilance changes in roles when you’re in a group and
typically it depends on your role.

Zebras

I studied an article on
vigilance behaviour in zebras on Princeton University Senior Theses. Zebras are
herd animals and live in large groups together. They all have the roles similar
to house finches. They carried out an experiment on zebras with a remote
control fake predator and they spent less time being vigilant in larger groups
as we saw above in Barnacle geese and house finches. Also, the protection to
drive the predator away was stronger in larger groups. They also didn’t fully
rely on the herd by always double checking themselves. This is different to the
Barnacle geese and house finches as they rely on each other to signal if there
is a predator in the area. Also, zebras use other animals that are prey animals
to tell if lions are coming as if they see them moving fast they know something
is coming. The zebra stallion usually drives the predator away.

 “We also found that redundancy did not increase with
group size suggesting that the zebra are not behaving independently of each
other; yet, they are also not behaving antiphonally, which is the optimal form
of synchronization. In conjunction with our findings that the average distance
between two alert individuals increased with group size as well as the
likelihood that two alert individuals were adjacent to each other was higher
than expected, we suggest that the zebra attend and respond to the actions of
their nearest neighbors. Furthermore, we propose a hypothesis that individuals
may not always trust the vigilance of others, double-checking on what their
neighbor responds to in order to confirm there is no threat.” (Parker, 2014)

Meerkats

I chose to research
meerkats as I found the behaviour interesting.According to an article from the
University of Cambridge meerkats are group animals. They live as a dominant
pair with up to 40 helpers. They feed and look after the young. Meerkats are
known for having one in the group looking out for predators while the other
meerkats forage for food. They all have different roles throughout the group
one being the vigilant one. They typically go up on a height or on their hind
legs and look around. They are more likely to be at a height if they have
young.This vigilant one was thought to be just doing it for their own sake according
to University of Cambridge until they carried out a study and it came to their
realisation that they were doing it for their safety and their groups safety.
When a predator is spotted they sound out one of their many calls.This is very
different to the Barnacle geese.

“In order to spot potential predators, adult meerkats
often climb to a higher vantage point or stand on their hind legs. If a
predator is detected, they use several different alarm calls to warn the rest
of the group. New Cambridge research shows that they are more likely to exhibit
this behaviour when there are young pups present, suggesting that the
predator-scanning behaviour is for the benefit of the group rather than the
individual.” (camberidge, 2013)

 

 

Methodology

For this observation, I have chosen to study barnacle
geese. It is important to be aware of the time of the year and what time of the
year they migrate back to Ireland and chose and appropriate location. The
method of research I am going to use is observation of vigilance behaviour in
barnacle geese. I will record the data using a table. It is also very important
to do research on the area you are going to be recording your data. It is also
good to plan what you are going to need to carry out the task and what you’re
going to use to record the data.

The
Wexford Slob land

“The
North Slob is an area of mud-flats at the estuary of the River Slaney at
Wexford Harbour, Ireland.” (Anon., 2018)  

The slob land is 1,000 hectares with a sea wall. The Wexford
slob land is home to quite a few residents such as the Greenland white fronted
geese and the barnacle goose in winter. The Wexford slob land is close to the
sea and is a marshy slob land.

“Barnacle
Goose is a coastal species in its winter distribution, usually occurring on
salt marshes or agricultural pastures within 5 km of the sea.” (birdwatchireland.ie, 2018)

It
has many different variety of plants such as many times of wild grass and
clover which barnacle geese love to eat. I have chosen to use the Wexford Slob
land as my research location as it fits the purpose. It isn’t far from where I
live so it will be easy to travel to and it is home to barnacle geese in the
winter months according to bird watch Ireland when I done some research on
their website. Barnacle geese have been coming to Ireland every winter from
Greenland for the last few years. It attracts them there as they have the perfect
feeding ground and they love being by the sea and it also has a source of food
to suit their nutritional requirements.

Picture
reference: (O’Connor, 2016)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What I would do:

Preparing
to carry out the observation of vigilance behaviour.

If I was carrying out this observation in the wild and
in real life I would prepare in advance to the day of research by using some of
the steps below. A week before I would be carrying out the observation I would place
the camouflage camera in place so the barnacle geese get used to the cameras presence.
I also would visit the area a few times to record what times they are most
active so I know what time I would be best to carry out my research. Also, so
they get used to my presence so it doesn’t make the research biased. I also
would prepare and print table to carry out my focal sampling on. I also would
carry out a preliminary observation to see will my method actually work.

Things
I will need for the research: Camera so I can record
the data to look back over later, packed lunch, a pen, the table to record the
research, pens, proper clothing appropriate for the weather and setting such as
camouflage and binoculars.

The
day I’m carrying out the research.

I would leave early to travel down to the Slob lands
and be a bit early to get everything ready and in place. With one person using
binoculars and the other recording the head ups and the time of vigilance and
the time of feeding. I would stay there as long as it was needed and then I
would pack up my stuff and leave and head for home. When I got home I would
look over the video and double check the data making sure it matches up.

What
we really done:  

We decided that doing the DVD would be a lot better
and more convenient than setting up and having to travel and research and wait
around in the slobs all day.In college, in animal behaviour class we were
provided with a video with 17 different flocks of geese in Scotland. So, unlike
what we would do in the wild be sat down in class and discussed a bit about
barnacle geese and different types of behaviours that group animals carry out
such as vigilance and foraging. We sat down in pairs and watched the video and
recorded the flock sizes for each of the 17 flocks. The
5 types of headings that I will be using are the flock number, flock size,
number of head ups, total time being vigilant and total time feeding. We were
given a table to carry out our focal sampling on. Throughout the observation I
noticed that the bigger the flock the less time that was spent being vigilant
and the more time feeding also the smaller the group the more time being
vigilant as they don’t have as many to protect them.The focal sampling was
carried out by filling in a table with the times of vigilance and feeding and
how big the flock size was.

Focal
sampling is when you study on bird out of a flock of birds and
monitor its behaviour.

Scan
sampling is when every 2 minutes you count the number of birds
present and record the amount of birds engaging in the same behaviour.We are
hoping to carry this out later on in the year.

Vigilance
means scanning around for predators. Typically the barnacle geese eat and then
look up every few minutes.

Foraging
means
scanning looking for food and also eating.

 

Results

13 out of 17 flocks spent more time feeding than being
vigilant while the other 4 spent more time being vigilant than feeding. The
amount of head ups is used to calculate the surveillance rate. Typically, the larger
groups of barnacle geese spent less time being vigilant than the smaller groups
as there is more of them to defend each other and spot a predator easier as
there is a lot more eyes. Below are 2 pictures I took of the Barnacle geese I
studied on the DVD in college and two of the different behaviours they were
carrying out. One being feeding and the other one being vigilant.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Results
of the observation I carried out:

     
Flock number 1 had a flock size of 5, done
a number of 4 head ups  it spends more
time feeding than being vigilant as it spent 00:05:44 seconds being vigilant
and the total time feeding was 00:54:56 seconds.

 

     
Flock number 2 had a flock size of 15,
done a number of 3 head ups it spent more time feeding than being vigilant as
it was vigilant for 00:00:30 seconds and the total time feeding was 00:49:70
seconds.

 

 

     
Flock number 3 had a flock size of 5, done
a number of 3 head ups it spends more time feeding than being vigilant as it
spent 00:10:42 seconds being vigilant and the total time feeding was 00:49:58
seconds.

 

     
Flock number 4 had a flock size of 11,
done a number of 1 head ups it spends more time feeding than being vigilant as
it spent 00:01:36 seconds being vigilant and the total time feeding was
00:58:64 seconds.

 

 

     
Flock number 5 had a flock size of 3, done
a number of 4 head ups it spends more time being vigilant than feeding as it
spent 00:33:21 seconds being vigilant and the total time feeding was 00:26:29
seconds.

 

     
Flock number 6 had a flock size of 3, done
a number of 1 head ups it spends more time being vigilant than feeding as it
spent 00:35:33 seconds being vigilant and the total time feeding was 00:24:65
seconds.

 

     
Flock number 7 had a flock size of 13,
done a number of 4 head ups it spends more time feeding than being vigilant as
it spent 00:04:26 seconds being vigilant and the total time feeding was
00:55:54 seconds.

 

     
Flock number 8 had a flock size of 10, done
a number of 4 head ups it spends more time feeding than being vigilant as it
spent 00:03:27 seconds being vigilant and the total time feeding was 00:56:23
seconds.

 

 

     
Flock number 9 had a flock size of 7, done
a number of 2 head ups it spends more time feeding than being vigilant as it
spent 00:05:01 seconds being vigilant and the total time feeding was 00:54:49
seconds.

 

     
Flock number 10 had a flock size of 1,
done a number of 1 head ups it spends more time being vigilant than feeding as
it spent 00:54:11 seconds being vigilant and the total time feeding was 00:05:09
seconds.

 

 

     
Flock number 11 had a flock size of 7,
done a number of  3 head ups it spends
more time feeding than being vigilant as it spent 00:04:06 seconds being
vigilant and the total time feeding was 00:55:04 seconds.

 

     
Flock number 12 had a flock size of 4,
done a number of 2 head ups it spends more time feeding than being vigilant as
it spent 00:07:47 seconds being vigilant and the total time feeding was
00:20:09 seconds.

 

 

     
Flock number 13 had a flock size of 1,
done a number of 3 head ups it spends more time being vigilant than feeding as
it spent 00:37:01 seconds being vigilant and the total time feeding was
00:05:89 seconds.

 

 

     
Flock number 14 had a flock size of 7,
done a number of 1 head ups it spends more time feeding than being vigilant as
it spent 00:07:71 seconds being vigilant and the total time feeding was
00:52:29 seconds.

 

 

     
Flock number 15 had a flock size of 5,
done a number of 2 head ups it spends more time feeding than being vigilant as
it spent 00:25:21 seconds being vigilant and the total time feeding was 00:35:29
seconds.

 

 

     
Flock number 16 had a flock size of 4,
done a number of 5 head ups it spends more time feeding than being vigilant as
it spent 00:06:60 seconds being vigilant and the total time feeding was 00:53:04
seconds.

 

 

     
Flock number 17 had a flock size of 3,
done a number of 5 head ups it spends more time feeding than being vigilant as
it spent 00:08:33 seconds being vigilant and the total time feeding was 00:51:67
seconds.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Discussion