, Volume 46, Issue 2, pp 164–170 | Cite as

Test of a hypothesis of territory regulation in an insectivorous bird by experimentally increasing prey abundance

  • Mark A. Franzblau
  • James P. Collins


Food availability is frequently hypothesized to be important in the regulation of territorial size. Recent theory suggests animals should respond to increased food availability by decreasing their territory. Most demonstrations of this relationship between food and territory are correlative, and few experimental tests of this hypothesis have been conducted.

A field-experimental mainpulation was conducted to test three predictions of the hypothesis that food is a proximate stimulus for regulation of territory. The Rufous-sided Towhee, an insectivorous bird that is a permanent resident of chaparral in Arizona, was used to test the predictions that weekly area, total area, and fluctuations in area would be smaller within experimentally manipulated territories. Food resources were increased within five experimental territories and the response was compared with five control territories.

The results did not support any of the three predictions. The hypothesis that food is a proximate stimulus for regulating territorial size was rejected. Two alternative hypotheses, that habitat quality or competition are proximate stimuli for regulating territories, could not be rejected.


Food Availability Experimental Test Alternative Hypothesis Food Resource Habitat Quality 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Bent, A.C.: Life histories of North American Cardinals, Grosbeaks, Buntings, Towhees, Finches, Sparrows and their allies. U.S. Natl. Mus. Bull. 237 (1945)Google Scholar
  2. Brown, J.L.: The evolution of diversity in avian territorial systems. Wil. Bul. 76, 160–169 (1964)Google Scholar
  3. Brown, J.L.: Territorial behavior and population regulation in birds. Wil. Bul. 81, 293–329 (1969)Google Scholar
  4. Brown, J.L., Orians, G.H.: Spacing patterns in mobile animals. Ann. Rev. Ecol. Syst. 1, 239–262 (1970)Google Scholar
  5. Carpenter, F.L., MacMillen, R.E.: Threshold model of feeding territoriality and test with a Hawaiian honey-creeper. Science 194, 639–642 (1976)Google Scholar
  6. Covich, A.P.: Analyzing shapes of foraging areas: some ecological and economic theories. Ann. Rev. Ecol. Syst. 7, 235–257 (1976)Google Scholar
  7. Dawson, W.R.: Temperature regulation and water requirements of the Brown and Abert Towhees, Pipilo fuscus and Pipilo aberti. Univ. Calif. Publ. Zool. 59, 81–124 (1954)Google Scholar
  8. Dill, L.M.: An energy-based model of optimal feeding-territory size. Theo. Pop. Biol. 14, 396–429 (1978)Google Scholar
  9. Ebersole, J.P.: Food density and territory size: an alternate model and a test on the reef fish Eupomacentrus leucosticus. Amer. Natur. 115, 492–501 (1980)Google Scholar
  10. Ewald, P.W., Carpenter, F.L.: Territorial response to energy manipulations in the Anna hummingbird. Oecologia (Berl.) 31, 277–292 (1978)Google Scholar
  11. Franzblau, M.A.: The effects of food resource manipulation on territory size of the Rufous-sided Towhee Pipilo erythrophthalmus montanus (Swarth). M.S. Thesis, Arizona State University. Tempe, Arizona 1980Google Scholar
  12. Fretwell, S.D.: Populations in a Seasonal Environment. Monographs in Population Biology 5. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press 1972Google Scholar
  13. Fretwell, S.D., Lucas, H.L.: On territorial behavior and other factors influencing habitat distribution in birds. Acta Biotheo. XIX, 16–36 (1970)Google Scholar
  14. Gass, C.L.: Territory regulation, tenure and migration in rufous hummingbirds. Can. J. Zool. 57, 914–923 (1979)Google Scholar
  15. Greenlaw, J.S.: The importance of food in the breeding system of the Rufous-sided Towhee, Pipilo erythrophthalmus (L.) Ph. D. Diss., Rutgers Univ. New Brunswick, N.J. 1969Google Scholar
  16. Hildén, O.: Habitat selection in birds. A review. Ann. Zool. Fenn. 2, 53–74 (1965)Google Scholar
  17. Hinde, R.A.: The biological significance of territories of birds. Ibis 98, 340–369 (1956)Google Scholar
  18. Hixon, M.A.: Food production and competitor density as the determinants of feeding territory size. Amer. Natur., 115, 510–530 (1980)Google Scholar
  19. Hollander, M., Wolfe, D.A.: Nonparametric Statistical Methods. New York: J. Wiley and Sons 1973Google Scholar
  20. Kodric-Brown, A., Brown, J.H.: Influence of economics, interspecific competition, and sexual dimorphism on territoriality of migrant Rufous hummingbirds. Ecology 59, 285–296 (1978)Google Scholar
  21. Krebs, J.R.: Territory and breeding density in the Great Tit Parus major. Ecology 52, 2–22 (1971)Google Scholar
  22. Morse, D.H.: Variables affecting the density and territory size of breeding spruce wood warblers. Ecology 57, 290–301 (1976)Google Scholar
  23. Myers, J.P., Connors, P.G., Pitelka, F.A.: Territory size in wintering sanderlings: the effects of prey abundance and intruder density. Auk 96, 551–561 (1979a)Google Scholar
  24. Myers, J.P., Connors, P.G., Pitelka, F.A.: Territoriality in nonbreeding shorebirds. Studies in Avian Biology 2, 231–246 (1979b)Google Scholar
  25. Orians, G.H.: Ecological aspects of behavior. In: Avian Biology, Vol. 1 (D. Farner, J.R. King, eds.). pp. 513–546. New York: Academic Press 1971Google Scholar
  26. Owen-Smith, N.: On territoriality in ungulates and an evolutionary model. Quart. Rev. Biol. 52, 1–38 (1977)Google Scholar
  27. Powell, J.R., Taylor, C.E.: Genetic variation in ecologically diverse environments. Amer. Sci. 67, 590–596 (1979)Google Scholar
  28. Seastedt, T.R., Maclean, S.F.: Territory size and composition in relation to resource abundance in Lapland longspurs breeding in arctic Alaska. Auk 96, 131–142 (1979)Google Scholar
  29. Simon, C.A.: The influence of food abundance on territory size in the iguanid lizard, Sceloperus jarrovi. Ecology 56, 993–998 (1975)Google Scholar
  30. Slaney, P.A., Northeote, T.G.: Effects of prey abundance on density and territorial behavior of young rainbow trout (Salmo gairdneri) in laboratory stream channels. J. Fish. Res. Board Can. 31, 1201–1209 (1974)Google Scholar
  31. Stenger, J.A.: Food habits and available food of ovenbirds in relation to territory size. Auk 75, 335–346 (1958)Google Scholar
  32. Stenger, J.A., Falls, J.B.: The utilized territory of the ovenbird. Wil. Bul. 71, 124–140 (1959)Google Scholar
  33. Stimson, J.: The role of the territory in the ecology of the intertidal limpet Lottia gigantea (Gray). Ecology 54, 1020–1030 (1973)Google Scholar
  34. Symons, P.E.K.: Behavioural adjustment of population density to available food by juvenile atlantic salmon. J. Anim. Ecol. 40, 569–587 (1971)Google Scholar
  35. Weeden, J.S.: Territorial behavior of the tree sparrow. Condor 67, 192–209Google Scholar
  36. Wilson, E.O.: Sociobiology. Harvard University: Belknap 1975Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1980

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mark A. Franzblau
    • 1
  • James P. Collins
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of ZoologyArizona State UniversityTempeUSA

Personalised recommendations