Social interactions change with season and age in Northern Bald Ibis

Verena Puehringer-Sturmayr, Tanja Stiefel, Kurt Kotrschal, Sonia Kleindorfer, Didone Frigerio

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
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Understanding the association between an individual’s position within a social network and its sex and age across seasons can be useful information for conservation management. For example, identifying the social position of females within a group can provide insights into reproductive potential, while the position of juveniles may be related to survival and hence recruitment potential. In the present study, we used social network analysis to investigate the effects of season, sex, age and reproductive partner on social interactions in the endangered Northern Bald Ibis (Geronticus eremita). Via focal sampling we recorded the social behaviour of 39 individually marked, free-flying birds for 4 months over two seasons (autumn, winter). We observed the occurrence of affiliative and agonistic interactions and estimated proximity between colony members. We found that (1) individuals were in proximity with more colony members in winter than in autumn, and affiliative interactions occurred more often in winter, (2) older individuals occupied more central positions in the proximity network irrespective of sex, (3) males engaged more than females in agonistic interactions, whereas females received more affiliative interactions than males irrespective of age, and (4) most affiliative interactions occurred between former or potentially prospective reproductive partners. Our findings suggest that social relationships could modulate inter-individual distance and there may be sex-related differences in the investment into pair bond maintenance. Overall the findings of sex- and age-related differences in behaviour and social position contribute to understanding factors associated with breeding success and mortality risk in an endangered bird species.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)277-288
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Ornithology
Issue number1
Early online date8 Oct 2020
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2021


  • Affiliative interactions
  • Agonistic interactions
  • Colonial
  • Conservation
  • Endangered species
  • Geronticus eremita
  • Juvenile recruitment
  • Proximity
  • Social network


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