European Journal of Wildlife Research

, Volume 61, Issue 1, pp 91–102 | Cite as

Food intake rates of herbivorous mammals and birds and the influence of body mass

  • Patrick Steuer
  • Jürgen Hummel
  • Christine Grosse-Brinkhaus
  • Karl-Heinz Südekum
Original Paper


The bite size and bite rate of an animal determines its food intake rate. Because of the importance of ingesting food, this behaviour makes up a large part of the daily routine of mammalian and avian herbivores, since they have to ingest large amounts of fibrous forage to meet their daily energy demands. Hence, they have to solve the dilemma of conflicting interests in their daily activities between foraging, social behaviour, sleep or predator avoidance. In this study, the role that body mass (BM) plays in this context was quantified and mammals and birds were compared regarding the influence of BM on instantaneous food intake rate (IFIR) (the first minutes of a meal), bite size (BS) and bite rate (BR). Because birds do not chew their food, it was hypothesised that they can increase their IFIR above the upper limit of similar-sized mammals which chew their food. Combining our own findings with literature, results showed that there is no difference between mammals and birds regarding IFIR, BS and BR. It was shown that IFIR (mammals BM0.95, birds BM0.82) and BS (mammals BM0.83, birds BM0.87) increase with increasing BM. Moreover, the factor ‘non-chewing’ does not increase the IFIR of birds.


Bite rate Bite size Chewing Microswards Non-chewing Phylogeny 



We thank the owners of the studied animals for supporting us. Financial support was provided by the DFG and this is contribution no. 166 of the DFG Research Unit FOR 533 ‘The Biology of the Sauropod Dinosaurs: The Evolution of Gigantism’.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Patrick Steuer
    • 1
  • Jürgen Hummel
    • 2
  • Christine Grosse-Brinkhaus
    • 1
  • Karl-Heinz Südekum
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute of Animal ScienceUniversity of BonnBonnGermany
  2. 2.Department of Animal SciencesUniversity of GöttingenGöttingenGermany

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