Movement predictability of individual barn owls facilitates estimation of home range size and survival

Shlomo Cain, Tovale Solomon, Yossi Leshem, Sivan Toledo, Eitam Arnon, Alexandre Roulin, Orr Spiegel*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Background: There is growing attention to individuality in movement, its causes and consequences. Similarly to other well-established personality traits (e.g., boldness or sociability), conspecifics also differ repeatedly in their spatial behaviors, forming behavioral types (“spatial-BTs”). These spatial-BTs are typically described as the difference in the mean-level among individuals, and the intra-individual variation (IIV, i.e., predictability) is only rarely considered. Furthermore, the factors determining predictability or its ecological consequences for broader space-use patterns are largely unknown, in part because predictability was mostly tested in captivity (e.g., with repeated boldness assays). Here we test if (i) individuals differ in their movement and specifically in their predictability. We then investigate (ii) the consequences of this variation for home-range size and survival estimates, and (iii) the factors that affect individual predictability. Methods: We tracked 92 barn owls (Tyto alba) with an ATLAS system and monitored their survival. From these high-resolution (every few seconds) and extensive trajectories (115.2 ± 112.1 nights; X̅ ± SD) we calculated movement and space-use indices (e.g., max-displacement and home-range size, respectively). We then used double-hierarchical and generalized linear mix-models to assess spatial-BTs, individual predictability in nightly max-displacement, and its consistency across time. Finally, we explored if predictability levels were associated with home-range size and survival, as well as the seasonal, geographical, and demographic factors affecting it (e.g., age, sex, and owls’ density). Results: Our dataset (with 74 individuals after filtering) revealed clear patterns of individualism in owls’ movement. Individuals differed consistently both in their mean movement (e.g., max-displacement) and their IIV around it (i.e., predictability). More predictable individuals had smaller home-ranges and lower survival rates, on top and beyond the expected effects of their spatial-BT (max-displacement), sex, age and ecological environments. Juveniles were less predictable than adults, but the sexes did not differ in their predictability. Conclusion: These results demonstrate that individual predictability may act as an overlooked axis of spatial-BT with potential implications for relevant ecological processes at the population level and individual fitness. Considering how individuals differ in their IIV of movement beyond the mean-effect can facilitate understanding the intraspecific diversity, predicting their responses to changing ecological conditions and their population management.

Original languageEnglish
Article number10
JournalMovement Ecology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2023


FundersFunder number
Avihu Levanon
Bezeq Inc.
Data Science Center
Eli Cohen and Eli Mimran
Hoopoe Foundation, Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel
Israeli Telecommunication Corp Ltd
Koret-UC Berkeley-Tel Aviv University
Ministry of Regional Cooperation
Shaldag Refrigeration Storeroom LTD
Shmuel Wirzberger
Israel Science FoundationISF396/20, ISF1919/19
Tel Aviv University
Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development


    • Animal personality
    • Behavioral plasticity
    • Behavioral syndromes
    • Bio-telemetry
    • Double-hierarchical generalized linear model (DHGLM)
    • High-throughput tracking
    • Movement ecology


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