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Attack behaviour in naive Gyrfalcons is modelled by the same guidance law as in Peregrines, but at a lower guidance gain

Citation

Brighton, Caroline (2021), Attack behaviour in naive Gyrfalcons is modelled by the same guidance law as in Peregrines, but at a lower guidance gain, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.51c59zw75

Abstract

The aerial hunting behaviours of birds are strongly influenced by flight morphology and ecology, but little is known of how this relates to the behavioural algorithms guiding flight. Here we use GPS loggers to record the attack trajectories of captive-bred Gyrfalcons (Falco rusticolus) during their maiden flights against robotic aerial targets, which we compare to existing flight data from Peregrines (Falco peregrinus). The attack trajectories of both species are well modelled by a proportional navigation (PN) guidance law, which commands turning in proportion to the angular rate of the line-of-sight to target, at a guidance gain N. However, naïve Gyrfalcons operate at significantly lower values of N than Peregrines, producing slower turning and a longer path to intercept. Gyrfalcons are less manoeuvrable than Peregrines, but physical constraint is insufficient to explain the lower values of N we found, which may reflect either the inexperience of the individual birds or ecological adaptation at the species level. For example, low values of N promote the tail-chasing behaviour that is typical of wild Gyrfalcons and which apparently serves to tire their prey in a prolonged high-speed pursuit. Likewise, during close pursuit of typical fast evasive prey, PN will be less prone to being thrown off by erratic target manoeuvres at low guidance gain. The fact that low-gain PN successfully models the maiden attack flights of Gyrfalcons suggests that this behavioural algorithm is embedded in a guidance pathway ancestral to the clade containing Gyrfalcons and Peregrines, though perhaps with much deeper evolutionary origins.