Impaired Predator Evasion in the Life History of Birds: Behavioral and Physiological Adaptations to Reduced Flight Ability

  • Johan Lind
  • Sven Jakobsson
  • Cecilia Kullberg
Part of the Current Ornithology book series (CUOR, volume 17)


Because the failure to escape a predator causes death to a prey animal, and thus excludes opportunities to reproduce in the future, predation is a major selective force in nature (e.g., Lima and Dill 1990; Dawkins and Krebs 1979). To evade attacks from an array of different predators successfully is thus of key importance for all ­potential prey organisms. In most animals there are periods in their life when they are more susceptible to predation than at other times. For example, the reproductive period might be associated with enhanced predation risk (see Magnhagen 1991 for a review). In birds, the most common way of escaping from predators is to use the ability to fly, and when birds are attacked by predators, take-off ability and maneuverability in flight are crucial for survival (e.g., Rudebeck 1950). Changes in body mass or wing area will change wing load (body mass/wing area, see Pennycuick 1989) and thus potentially will affect flight ability. Such changes in wing load may lead to variation in predation risk during a bird’s life. Periods when birds may have impaired evasive abilities because of changes in wing load include during migration (increased mass from fat storage), reproduction (increased mass from egg load), and molt (reduced wing area from feather loss and growth).


Predation Risk Zebra Finch Fuel Load Flight Muscle European Starling 
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.



We thank Franz Bairlein, Innes Cuthill, Thord Fransson, Neil Metcalfe, Charles F. Thompson, and an anonymous referee for valuable comments on the manuscript. We are especially grateful for stimulating discussions with Innes Cuthill, Thord Fransson, David Houston, Will Cresswell, Åke Lindström, and Neil Metcalfe. C.K. was funded by a fellowship from the Swedish National Research Council.


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© Springer New York 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre for the Study of Cultural Evolution, Department of ZoologyStockholm UniversityStockholmSweden

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