Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 54, Issue 6, pp 534–538 | Cite as

What limits predator detection in blue tits (Parus caeruleus): posture, task or orientation?

  • Ulrika KabyEmail author
  • Johan Lind
Original Article


To detect threats and reduce predation risk prey animals need to be alert. Early predator detection and rapid anti-predatory action increase the likelihood of survival. We investigated how foraging affects predator detection and time to take-off in blue tits (Parus caeruleus) by subjecting them to a simulated raptor attack. To investigate the impact of body posture we compared birds feeding head-down with birds feeding head-up, but could not find any effect of posture on either time to detection or time to take-off. To investigate the impact of orientation we compared birds having their side towards the attacking predator with birds having their back towards it. Predator detection, but not time to take-off, was delayed when the back was oriented towards the predator. We also investigated the impact of foraging task by comparing birds that were either not foraging, foraging on chopped mealworms, or foraging on whole ones. Foraging on chopped mealworms did not delay detection compared to nonforaging showing that foraging does not always restrict vigilance. However, detection was delayed more than 150% when the birds were foraging on whole, live mealworms, which apparently demanded much attention and handling skill. Time to take-off was affected by foraging task in the same way as detection was. We show that when studying foraging and vigilance one must include the difficulty of the foraging task and prey orientation.


Blue tits Detection ability Foraging Predation risk Vigilance 



We thank Patrik Lindenfors for statistical advice and Christer Wiklund, two anonymous referees, Peter Bednekoff and Sven Jakobsson for valuable comments improving the manuscript. We also thank the Schöns, the Berglunds and the Bergmans for letting us trap birds in their gardens. This study was supported by grants from Elis Wide's (Gustaf Danielsson's) Foundation (Swedish Ornithological Society) to U.K. and conducted with permission No. 66–98 from the Swedish ethical board for conducting behavioural research.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of ZoologyStockholm University StockholmSweden

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