, Volume 13, Issue 5, pp 701-710
Date: 19 Mar 2010

Inter-individual and age differences in exploration, neophobia and problem-solving ability in a Neotropical raptor (Milvago chimango)

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Abstract

Animal innovations have far-reaching ecological and evolutionary consequences. The occurrence and persistence of an innovation require several processes, including exploration, social and asocial learning, and low neophobia. In addition, the identity of the innovator may determine how these new behaviours are socially transmitted. Taking into account inter-individual and age differences, we investigated three correlates of animal innovation: object exploration, neophobia level and novel problem-solving ability in an opportunistic generalist raptor, the Chimango Caracara (Milvago chimango). Eighteen individuals (7 adults and 11 juveniles) were caught during the non-breeding period and housed in individual cages in outdoor aviaries. Each bird was given three tests: exploration, neophobia and problem-solving. Individuals differed in their response to novel situations both within and between age groups. Most of the juveniles were more explorative and had a lower neophobic response to a strange object than adult birds, but both age groups were able to solve a novel problem when given a food reward. In juveniles, neophobia level and problem-solving performance were inversely related; however, we found no relationship between these behaviours in adults. Exploration did not correlate with neophobia or problem-solving ability for either age group. This research is one of the few studies exploring the inter-individual and age differences in behavioural innovation and their correlates in a bird of prey. The explorative tendency, low neophobia and ability to innovate showed by M. chimango may be advantageous for this generalist and opportunistic raptor and might be some of the factors underlying its ecological success.