Animal Cognition

, Volume 18, Issue 1, pp 139–150 | Cite as

The role of stimulus complexity, age and experience in the expression of exploratory behaviour in the Chimango Caracara, Milvago chimango

  • Laura Marina BiondiEmail author
  • Jorgelina María Guido
  • María Susana Bó
  • Rubén N. Muzio
  • Aldo Iván Vassallo
Original Paper


Exploration represents an important way by which organisms evaluate environment information. The decision of whether or not an animal should investigate environmental changes may influence the extent to which animals learn about their surroundings and cope with habitat modifications. We analysed exploration behaviour in a suburban population of a raptor species, the Chimango Caracara, Milvago chimango, by examining how age, previous experience and object complexity influence novel object exploration. Our findings showed that object complexity did not influence caracaras initial approach and contact with objects, but did influence the degree of engagement during exploratory activities, as measured by total exploration time and number of exploration events. These variables were higher for complex objects than for simple objects. Experience resulted in less exploration of simple objects. It is likely that, for caracaras, simple objects are easier to encode and recall than complex objects, so additional exploration of such objects would not provide further information. Results suggest that exploratory behaviour in this raptor was guided more by the benefits of a greater quantity of information obtained by exploring complex objects, than by the risks associated to this activity. We can conclude that caracaras cope with novel features in their surroundings with a novelty-seeking strategy, characteristic for generalist species in discovering early new resources opportunities, and which might be a determining factor for adaptive responses to environment modification.


Exploratory behaviour Novelty Stimulus complexity Experience Learning Milvago chimango 



We thank Dr. Laura Mauco for her assistance during the capturing and managing of raptors, and Susana Rosso and Jorge Sanchez for allowing access to their properties to capture birds. Two anonymous reviewers made helpful and constructive suggestions on the manuscript. We appreciate the improvements in English usage made by Peter Lowther through the ‘Association of Field Ornithologists’ programme of editorial assistance. This work was conducted with funds provided by the Universidad Nacional de Mar del Plata EXA622/12, ANPCyT PICT N°2121. The authors adhered to guidelines for the use of animals in research and to the legal requirements of Argentina (permit to capture and manipulate raptors: Nº 96 Exp. 22228-100, Dirección Contralor y Uso de Recursos Naturales y pesqueros, Ministerio de Asuntos Agrarios de la Provincia de Buenos Aires).


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Laura Marina Biondi
    • 1
    Email author
  • Jorgelina María Guido
    • 1
  • María Susana Bó
    • 1
  • Rubén N. Muzio
    • 2
  • Aldo Iván Vassallo
    • 1
  1. 1.Instituto de Investigaciones Marinas y Costeras (IIMyC), Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas (CONICET)Universidad Nacional de Mar Del Plata (UNMDP)Mar del PlataArgentina
  2. 2.Grupo de Aprendizaje y Cognición Comparada, Laboratorio de Biología del Comportamiento, Instituto de Biología y Medicina Experimental (IBYME-CONICET), Facultad de PsicologíaUniversidad de Buenos AiresMar del PlataArgentina

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