Borowske, A., Morgan, D.K.J. & Waas, J.R. (2011). Do heterospecific size and demeanour influence visitation behaviour of birds at urban foraging patches? Journal of Ethology, published online 20 August 2011.
Permanent Research Commons link: http://hdl.handle.net/10289/5858
We compared the feeding behaviour of garden birds in the presence of four heterospecific decoy species at suburban feeding stations to assess the relative importance of body size (large vs. small) and demeanour (high vs. low potential for inter-specific aggression) as cues for threat recognition. We conducted separate trials with live, caged Australian magpie, Cracticus tibicen, and common myna, Acridotheres tristis, large and small species known to chase and harass heterospecifics, and comparably sized species not known for inter-species aggression (i.e. rock dove, Columba livia, and ringneck dove, Streptopelia risoria). Birds of all species arrived at feeding stations sooner and displayed higher-risk activities in the presence of small decoys. The two most common species that visited the feeding stations, silvereye, Zosterops lateralis, and house sparrow, Passer domesticus, were most likely to perform high-risk behaviours (i.e. landing on the stimulus cage and feeding from the station) in the presence of common mynas. The activities were performed least frequently in the presence of Australian magpies. As garden birds likely had the most experience interacting with common mynas, the results suggest that a two-step decision rule, with size and familiarity as important cues, may be used to recognize potential threats.