Ekanayake KB*, Gnanapragasam JJ*, Ranawana K, Vidanapathirana DR, Abeyawardhena UT, Fernando C, McQueen A, Weston MA+, Symonds MRE+ (2022) Ecological and environmental predictors of escape among birds on a large tropical island. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 76: 31 LINK

*joint first authors, + joint senior authors

What is the paper about?

Using a large amount of escape distance observations (from over 200 species of birds) carried out by a dedicated team in Sri Lanka, we examined what best predicted differences in flight initiation distances. Apart from well known patterns with body mass (shorter FIDs in smaller birds), we also found that FIDs are shorter in areas with lots of humans (the effect was more pronounced in large birds also), and when birds were by themselves. Most other predictors we examined did not have any predictive effect.

What’s the story behind it?

This was the second paper to come out of the collaboration with Mike Weston and two Sri Lankan researchers (Kasun Ekanayake and Jonny Gnanapragasam). I can remember the day in (I think) 2018 when we sat down and planned the whole project (I was jealous that I didn’t get to go to Sri Lanka). The first paper (Gnanapragasam et al. 2021) had a more specific focus on the effects of the Sri Lankan civil war on escape response in birds – but this had a broader exploratory aim. It took quite a while to pull all these data together, and almost a year between first submission and final acceptance due to difficulties with the analysis, which Alex McQueen came on board to resolve, but we got there in the end!


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