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The use of social information about predation risk by foraging house sparrows: a feeder experiment

Abstract

There is increasing evidence of social information transfer about predation risk in foraging animal groups. However, little is known about whether individuals also acquire such information from non-members of their own group. We experimentally manipulated the perceived threat and heterospecific cues about low predation risk in the house sparrow, Passer domesticus, by presenting stuffed dummies of the Eurasian sparrowhawk, Accipiter nisus, and the Eurasian tree sparrow, Passer montanus, at the feeder. Data were collected during winter 2016/2017 in two private yards in south-west and north Slovakia, where 1677 individuals in 83 flocks were observed at two feeders. We found no evidence for heterospecific information use in foraging single-species flocks of house sparrows. We suggest that strong bonds created among flock members may explain the observed pattern.

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Fig. 1

Data availability

Datasets are deposited in publicly available repositories.

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Acknowledgements

We are very grateful to V. Tekeľová and other master students for involvement in the data collection. Computational resources were supplied by the project “e-Infrastruktura CZ” (e-INFRA LM2018140) provided within the program Projects of Large Research, Development and Innovations Infrastructures.

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Correspondence to Alfréd Trnka.

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The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

The study was conducted in compliance with the law of Slovakia. The licences and permission to perform the experiments and handle the birds were issued by the Ministry of Environment of the Slovak Republic (numbers 269/132/05-5.1pil and 7230/2008-2.1pil).

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Trnka, A., Samaš, P. The use of social information about predation risk by foraging house sparrows: a feeder experiment. J Ethol (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10164-021-00720-3

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Keywords

  • Information transfer
  • Predation risk
  • Foraging flocks
  • House sparrow
  • Passer domesticus