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Nubian Ibex (Capra nubiana) Fact Sheet: Behavior & Ecology

Activity Cycle

Crepuscular

  • Active at dawn and dusk (Habibi 1994)

Daily activity patterns (from Habibi 1994 unless otherwise noted)

  • Begin activity near dawn
    • Descend slopes in search of food and water
  • Browse and graze throughout the day
    • Active as temperatures and solar radiation permit
    • Peak activity prior to c. 09:00
    • Lower temperatures allow longer periods of activity
    • Females typically forage for longer periods each day than males, in Islrael (P Alkon personal communication)
      • Due to reliance on scarce, high quality forage
  • Rest and bed down in the heat of the day
    • Climb steep canyon walls to shelter among crevices and ledges on weathering slopes
  • Re-emerge at dusk
    • Night-time activity unclear

Daily travel

  • Undertake circuit of c. 4-6 km (2.5-3.7 mi) (Habibi 1994)

Seasonal activity patterns

  • Reproductive (rutting season) (from Habibi 1994)
    • Males travel long, c. 10 km/day (6.2 mi/day) in one study

Home Range

High range fidelity

  • Female-young groups
    • Typically remain within specific home ranges (Shackleton 1997)
  • Mature, adult males
    • Often range more widely; seasonally during the reproductive season (Alkon 2013)

Social Groups

Live in small groups(from Habibi 1994 unless otherwise noted)

  • Gregarious animals
    • Live in an open system where individuals join and leave with little reaction from other group members (Habibi 1997)
  • Group composition
    • Mixed groups (males, females, and juveniles) (Habibi 1994; Habibi 1997)
      • Males, females, and juveniles
        • Males up to 3 years of age remain within mixed groups, in Israel (P Alkon personal communication)
        • Group members typically remain clost to cliff edges
          • Likely for predator avoidance
          • Rely more heavily on high-quality herbaceous forage found near the cliffs as well
      • Most common social group
      • Large, adult males typically only within mixed groups during the seasonal rut (mating season) (Gross et al. 1995)
    • Female-young groups
      • Typically smaller than mixed groups
    • All-male groups, small
      • Young males (4-6 years of age) form small groups, in Israel (P Alkon personal communication)
        • Small bands
      • Breeding males
        • Disperse during the rut
        • No apparent hierarchy among individuals (P Alkon personal communication)
        • Minimal agonism outside the reproductive (rutting) season (P Alkon personal communication)
        • Range more widely than female based groups
    • Solitary males, common during the rut

Group size(Habibi 1994; Habibi 1997)

  • Group size fluctuates over time
    • 2-36 individuals
      • Smaller groups in regions with intense hunting pressure and habitat degradation (Alkon 2013; Habibi and Grainger 1990; Osborn and Helmy 1980)
      • Larger groups in Israel, likely due to their protected status
        • Female based-groups of >30 adults are common in the well-watered and lushly vegetated Ein Gedi Nature Reserved near the Dead Sea (P Alkon personal communication)
    • Typically <10 individuals, mean c. 7; study of populations in Saudi Arabia

Social structure

  • Mature females
    • Typically lead as group escapes upslope when disturbed (Habibi 1997)
    • Females with linear dominance hierarchy
      • Stable hierarchy observed in one Negev population (Greenburg-Cohen et al. 1994)
        • Characterized by high levels of subtle agonistic interactions

Territorial Behavior

None reported

Social Interactions

Aggression

  • Male-male aggression intense during the rut
    • Females and juveniles also exhibit aggressive behavior
  • Female agonism
    • Often associated with feeding (Greenburg-Cohen et al. 1994)
      • Observed commonly in early morning and late afternoon
    • Linear dominance hierarchy; apparent in one study population in Israel (Greenburg-Cohen et al. 1994)
      • High ranking individuals typically heavier and more aggressive than lower ranking counterparts
  • Male-female interactions
    • 'Winner' most often the male (Greenburg-Cohen et al. 1994)
  • Forms of aggression (from Habibi 1994; Greenburg-Cohen et al. 1994 unless otherwise noted)
    • Butt; aggressor uses horns to hit opponent's body
      • Head held low, chin drawn toward chest, horns directed forward
      • Body held rigid
      • Push against opponent following contact in an attempt to off-balance him
    • Horn-threat; aggressor postures and threatens to butt
      • No contact is made; opponents typically some distance from one anther
      • Head lowered, horns directed toward opponent
      • Female response to approaching males during courtship
    • Charge; aggressor charges full-speed at opponent
      • Threat display; contact is avoided as it would result in serious injury
      • Typically over large distances; affording opponent time to move away
    • Hook
      • Horns swung sideways by twisting the neck to catch horns with an opponent
      • Uncommon form of aggression
    • Threat-jump
      • Initiator rises on hind legs in front of opponent with head turned sideways
      • Sometimes in unison and repeated
    • Clash
      • Aggressor raises forefeet 1 m (3 ft) above the ground and strikes opponent with horns at full force
      • Horns strike one another diagonally
        • Produces loud sounds; audible to humans over 500 m (1640 ft) away
    • Push-fight
      • Rivals stand side-by-side (parallel) and forcefully push
      • Contact made at shoulder level
  • Click here to view a brief video

Play (from Habibi 1994 unless otherwise noted)

  • Participants
    • Juveniles and yearlings
    • Solitary play uncommon, one study
  • Forms of play
    • Gambol
      • Frolic and leap vertically, with all four feet off the ground
        • Shake head, kick legs, and twist body while in mid-air
      • Primarily in early morning (dawn); again near mid-day in cooler weather
    • Chase
      • Along scree-slopes at high speed
    • Play-fight
      • Butt heads and horns; push and shove
        • Bouts typically brief (15-30 seconds), may be repeated for long periods (nearly 20 minutes in one study)
      • Juvenile and yearling males are the most frequent participants

Communication

Vocalization (Groves and Leslie 2011)

  • Similar to other goats
  • Not typically vocal


Olfaction/Scent Marking

  • Do not use latrines (dung piles) (Groves and Leslie 2011)
  • Males spray urine (Groves and Leslie 2011; Schaller 1977)
    • Capra (spp) males squirt fine mists onto their chest, neck, throat, and beards
    • Possible signal of aggression or an indication of social status
  • In courtship
    • Females urinate to communicate reproductive status to males during the mating season (Habibi 1994)
    • Males often raise the tail upright to expose anal glands (Schaller 1977)

Locomotion

Locomotion

  • Walk and run
    • Quadrupedally
  • Jump
    • Leap off hind legs to scale steep cliffs
    • Spring from one sheer surface to another
    • Descend head first
  • Climb
    • Into trees (Habibi 1994)
  • Avoid swimming (Manlius 2001)

Interspecies Interactions

Predators

  • Few large carnivores within the range
    • In Africa: leopard (Panthera pardus) (Alkon 2013)
    • Arabian Peninsula: gray wolf (Canis lupus), leopard (though extremely rare - subspecies critically endangered) (Shkedy and Saltz 2000)
    • Sinai Peninsula: leopard, gray wolf, striped hyena (Hyaena hyaena) (Gross et al. 1995)
  • Anti-predator behavior
    • Flee up steep cliffs (Habibi 1994)
    • Individuals group together, as is typical for goats and sheep (Habibi 1994)

Symbiotic interactions

  • Ectoparasites(from Yeruham et al. 1999)
    • Oestrus sp. (larvae) - nasal cavity, sinus, and horns
    • Lipoptena chalcomelaena (hippoboscid flies)
    • Linognathus africanus (blood sucking lice)
    • Damalinia sp. (biting lice)
    • Boophilus annulatus (cattle tick) and Hyalomma anatolicum (a tick)

Cliff Faces Provide Protection

group of ibex on rocks

Groups descend steep cliff faces in the morning to feed in the canyon bottom. Adults and young agilely climb sheer rock faces to retire at night or to flee danger.

Image credit: © orientalizing from Flickr. Some rights reserved.

Page Citations

Alkon (2013)
Greenburg-Cohen et al. (1994)
Gross et al. (1995)
Groves and Leslie (2011)
Habibi (1994)
Habibi (1997)
Habibi and Grainger (1990)
Manlius (2001)
Osborn and Helmy (1980)
Schaller (1977)
Shackleton (1997)
Shkedy and Saltz (2000)
Yeruham et al. (1999)

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