Effects of male removal on female foraging behavior in the Eurasian treecreeper
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In old, spruce-dominated forests of central Finland, Eurasian treecreepers Certhia familiaris divide their territories spatially during the breeding season. Females forage primarily on the upper parts of the tree trunks, while males use the lower parts of the tree trunks. In this study we removed males from eight territories in the early nestling period to see if the mate's absence would change the foraging patterns of the resident female. Widowed females foraged at lower heights, thus behaving more like paired males. These females also spent less time on each tree and on each foraging bout than did paired females. We conclude that male removal facilitated the change in a female's foraging niche and foraging time at the trees. Females may re-optimize their foraging site selection owing to the absence of dominant males and a consequent need to increase their parental care. Behavioral plasticity may be the mechanism of niche partitioning between the sexes in this species.
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