Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 67, Issue 6, pp 905–911 | Cite as

Temporal peaks in social information: prospectors investigate conspecific nests after a simulated predator visit

  • Robert L. Thomson
  • Päivi M. Sirkiä
  • Alexandre Villers
  • Toni Laaksonen
Original Paper


Individuals of many taxa gather social information in order to make informed decisions with lowered unpredictability. Social information may show temporal periods of higher information value during certain events. However, the value of information is expected to decrease with time since the event and individuals accessing this information are expected to do so quickly. In birds, prospectors visit the nests of other individuals to gather information about reproductive decisions and breeding success. Individuals are known to prospect even during their own breeding to access this information. We investigated prospecting behavior of pied flycatchers (Ficedula hypoleuca) at conspecific nests within a short time period following a simulated predator visit. We performed predator and control presentations at flycatcher nests, and recorded all prospectors (foreign conspecific individuals) visiting these nests within 45-min periods before and after the presentations. We found a significant increase in conspecific prospectors visiting focal nests after the presentation of a predator near the nest. The prospectors in our data comprised mainly pied flycatchers actively breeding in the neighborhood of the focal nest. We also found that the increase in prospecting at these nests is of short-duration, and that prospecting rates decreased back to background prospecting levels relatively quickly. Our results find support for the prediction that individuals may respond to temporally peaking value of information after certain observable events. This result suggests that prospecting may be especially aimed at specific periods of high information value.


Public information Prospecting Habitat selection Predation risk Offspring investment Eavesdropping 



We acknowledge financial support by the Academy of Finland (project nos. 130436 and 138049) and the Ella and Georg Ehrnrooth Foundation. For helpful suggestions and comments that have dramatically improved this, paper we thank Janne Seppänen and two anonymous referees.

Ethics statement

The ringing of birds was done under permit from the Finnish Museum of Natural History and complied with the current laws of Finland.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Robert L. Thomson
    • 1
  • Päivi M. Sirkiä
    • 1
  • Alexandre Villers
    • 1
  • Toni Laaksonen
    • 1
  1. 1.Section of Ecology, Department of BiologyUniversity of TurkuTurkuFinland

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