Do birds behave according to dynamic risk assessment theory? A feeder experiment
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Pair-wise preference experiments were used to reveal predator discrimination by four tit species wintering in the Czech Republic. The reactions of the tits to a more dangerous predator (sparrowhawk) and a less dangerous (kestrel) one were compared. The number of visits to a feeder with a predator present expressed the perceived dangerousness of the predator. The tits' behaviour towards the feeders was in agreement with predictions, according to dynamic risk assessment theory. The presence of any predator at the feeder lowered the number of visits to the feeder. Similarly, the tits were judged to have evaluated the sparrowhawk as being more dangerous than the kestrel, as its presence lowered the number of arrivals more than did the kestrel. The duration of stay and number of pecks of individual birds were also used as measures of predator dangerousness. The results not only confirm that tits behave according to dynamic risk assessment theory, but also show the exceptional suitability of preference experiments for the research of predator differentiation and evaluation.
KeywordsCommon kestrel Eurasian sparrowhawk Feeders Pair-wise experiments Predator discrimination Preference experiments Paridae
The study was supported by grants of the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic (IAA601410803), and the Ministry of Education, Youth, and Sports (MSM6007665801).
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