acta ethologica

, Volume 15, Issue 1, pp 127–134 | Cite as

Linking anti-predator behaviour and habitat quality: group effect in nest defence of a passerine bird

  • Tatjana Krama
  • Arnis Bērziņš
  • Seppo Rytkönen
  • Markus J. Rantala
  • David Wheatcroft
  • Indrikis Krams


In habitats where the density of breeding individuals is higher, breeding success has been shown to increase with the number of close conspecific and heterospecific neighbours. However, the mechanisms linking habitat quality, group size of prey individuals and offspring defence are poorly known. In this field study, we examined the relationships between habitat quality and parental nest defence behaviour in the pied flycatcher (Ficedula hypoleuca). We found that mobbing is more intense in unmanaged forests where birds breed in more dense and diverse communities than in heavily managed young forests where heterospecific densities are lower. We also found that the mobbing activities of pied flycatchers breeding in unmanaged mature boreal forests attracted more neighbouring prey individuals than in nearby managed forests. This study shows that habitat quality-mediated effects might be responsible for the decreased group size of mobbing birds in managed forests, which may lead to less effective communal defence.


Anti-predator behaviour Group effect Cooperation Nest defence Ficedula hypoleuca Habitat quality 



We thank Gary Ramey, Mikus Āboliņš-Ābols, Milica Požgayová and one anonymous reviewer for helpful comments on the manuscript. We also thank Kristine Igaune for field assistance and Jolanta Vrublevska for her help with figures and the text. Funding for this project was provided by the Science Council of Latvia (09.1186 to T.K. and 07.2100 to I.K.) and the Academy of Finland (to M.J.R. and I.K.). The experiments comply with the current laws of the Republic of Latvia, and the study was approved by the Science Council of the Republic of Latvia.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag and ISPA 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Tatjana Krama
    • 1
    • 2
  • Arnis Bērziņš
    • 1
  • Seppo Rytkönen
    • 5
  • Markus J. Rantala
    • 3
  • David Wheatcroft
    • 4
  • Indrikis Krams
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  1. 1.Institute of Systematic BiologyUniversity of DaugavpilsDaugavpilsLatvia
  2. 2.Institute of Ecology and Earth SciencesUniversity of TartuTartuEstonia
  3. 3.Department of BiologyUniversity of TurkuTurkuFinland
  4. 4.Committee on Evolutionary BiologyUniversity of ChicagoChicagoUSA
  5. 5.Department of BiologyUniversity of OuluOuluFinland

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