Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 33, Issue 5, pp 289–295 | Cite as

Food exploitation by a winter flock of greylag geese: behavioral dynamics, competition and social status

  • Kurt Kotrschal
  • Josef Hemetsberger
  • John Dittami


To investigate the dynamics of the winter flock patch exploitation, feeding experiments were performed with 140 semi-tame, free-roaming greylag geese (Anser anser). Three different initial densities of barley were offered on a 50-m2 patch: low (1600 grains/m2), intermediate (3300/m2) and high (I 1500/m2). Goose numbers on the patch, peck rates, and frequencies of agonistic encounters and of alert postures were observed by scanning the flock and in focal individuals. At low and intermediate initial food densities, peck rates decreased with food density, whereas at high food density, peck rates decreased only slightly over the feeding bout. Agonistic interactions increased as food decreased. A switch from exploitation to interference competition occurred at a threshold of approximately 900 remaining grains per square meter. With high initial food density, agonistic encounters began to increase gradually after 20–30 min. The same general patterns were observed for frequency of alertness. Family members occupied the patch for the longest time periods. The family female and the offspring fed most intensely. The family gander however, fed significantly less but was more aggressive and vigilant than all other social categories. Solitary geese spent their time on the patch doing little else but feeding and were the first to leave. It seems that high-ranking families and low-ranking singles adopt different competitive strategies, the former being superior interference competitors whereas the latter are forced scramble competitors.

Key words

Anser anser Groups Social interactions Strategies Parent-offspring 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1993

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kurt Kotrschal
    • 1
    • 2
  • Josef Hemetsberger
    • 1
    • 2
  • John Dittami
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Konrad-Lorenz-Forschungsstelle für EthologieGrünau 11Austria
  2. 2.Zoologisches InstitutUniversität WienWienAustria

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