, Volume 157, Issue 4, pp 725–734 | Cite as

Foraging patterns of voles at heterogeneous avian and uniform mustelid predation risk

  • Jana A. EccardEmail author
  • Jyrki Pusenius
  • Janne Sundell
  • Stefan Halle
  • Hannu Ylönen
Behavioral Ecology - Original Paper


Temporal variation of antipredatory behavior and a uniform distribution of predation risk over refuges and foraging sites may create foraging patterns different from those anticipated from risk in heterogenous habitats. We studied the temporal variation in foraging behavior of voles exposed to uniform mustelid predation risk and heterogeneous avian predation risk of different levels induced by vegetation types in eight outdoor enclosures (0.25 ha). We manipulated mustelid predation risk with weasel presence or absence and avian predation risk by reducing or providing local cover at experimental food patches. Foraging at food patches was monitored by collecting giving-up densities at artificial food patches, overall activity was automatically monitored, and mortality of voles was monitored by live-trapping and radiotracking. Voles depleted the food to lower levels in the sheltered patches than in the exposed ones. In enclosures with higher avian predation risk caused by lower vegetation height, trays were depleted to lower levels. Unexpectedly, voles foraged in more trays and depleted trays to lower levels in the presence of weasels than in the absence. Weasels match their prey’s body size and locomotive abilities and therefore increase predation risk uniformly over both foraging sites and refuge sites that can both be entered by the predator. This reduces the costs of missing opportunities other than foraging. Voles changed their foraging strategy accordingly by specializing on the experimental food patches with predictable returns and probably reduced their foraging in the matrix of natural food source with unpredictable returns and high risk to encounter the weasel. Moreover, after 1 day of weasel presence, voles shifted their main foraging activities to avoid the diurnal weasel. This behavior facilitated bird predation, probably by nocturnal owls, and more voles were killed by birds than by weasels. Food patch use of voles in weasel enclosures increased with time. Voles had to balance the previously missed feeding opportunities by progressively concentrating on artificial food patches.


Antipredatory behavior Avian predation Bank voles Mustelid predation Predator Facilitation Predator interaction Temporal variation 



We want to thank our helpers in the field—Raisa Tiilikainen, Felix von Blanckenhagen, John Loehr, Miina Kovanen and Anne Mähönen. The Konnevesi Research Station provided excellent background support and working environment. Burt Kotler and Chris Whelan kindly commented on an earlier version of the manuscript. The study was carried out with permission from the Board for Animal Experiments of the University of Jyväskylä (Permission #5/7.2.2000) and the weasel maintenance by the permission of the Ministry of the Environment of Finland (No 1/5722/96) The study was supported by the Academy of Finland (project No:s 208478, 68726 and 44887, 44878 in Finnish Centre of Excellence Programs).


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jana A. Eccard
    • 1
    • 5
    Email author
  • Jyrki Pusenius
    • 2
  • Janne Sundell
    • 3
  • Stefan Halle
    • 4
  • Hannu Ylönen
    • 5
  1. 1.Animal BehaviorUniversity of BielefeldBielefeldGermany
  2. 2.Finnish Game and Fisheries Research InstituteHelsinkiFinland
  3. 3.Department of Biological and Environmental SciencesUniversity of HelsinkiHelsinkiFinland
  4. 4.Institute of EcologyUniversity of JenaJenaGermany
  5. 5.Department of Biological and Environmental Science, Konnevesi Research StationUniversity of JyväskyläJyväskyläFinland

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