Individual traits influence vigilance in wild female eastern grey kangaroos Academic Article uri icon


  • Vigilance is an essential component of antipredator behaviour and is also used to monitor conspecifics, but is traded off against feeding in herbivores. This trade-off can be influenced by variation in many environmental, social and individual traits. Our aim was to test the relationship between individual-level traits, including boldness, body condition and reproductive state, and vigilance, while controlling for environmental and social variables. Using multiple 5-min video samples of 30 foraging, individually recognisable, female eastern grey kangaroos (Macropus giganteus) at Sundown National Park in Queensland, we investigated individual-level variation in the duration, intensity and target of vigilance behaviour during foraging. On separate occasions, we used flight-initiation distance tests to measure boldness in our kangaroos. Females with longer flight-initiation distances (shyer females) spent more time vigilant, providing preliminary support for studies of animal personality that have suggested that boldness may covary with vigilance. Body condition did not affect the total time spent vigilant, but females in poorer body condition spent more of their vigilance time in low-intensity vigilance. Vigilance patterns were not related to reproductive state, but varied among months and differed between mornings and afternoons, and females spent more time in high-intensity vigilance when further from cover. Even after accounting for all our variables we found that 7% of the variation in total time vigilant and 14% of the variation in vigilance intensity was explained by individual identity. This highlights the importance of individual-level variation in vigilance behaviour.

publication date

  • 2013

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