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Flexibility in the Foraging Behavior of Blue Tits in Response to Short-Term Manipulations of Brood Size

AuthorsGarcía-Navas, Vicente CSIC ORCID; Sanz, Juan José CSIC ORCID
Issue Date2010
PublisherBlackwell Publishing
CitationEthology 116: 744-754 (2010)
AbstractPrevious work suggests that short-term changes in feeding rate are usually produced by the parent-offspring interaction. However, few studies have properly tested this assumption. In this study, we attempt to explore the short-term consequences of daily (within-pair) brood size manipulations (reduced, original, and enlarged) on feeding behavior (provisioning rates, prey size, and prey type) of Mediterranean blue tits Cyanistes caeruleus. Total provisioning rates were lowest when broods were reduced in size and greatest when broods were enlarged. Mean prey size was also affected by the brood size changes: parents tended to bring larger prey when confronted with low brood demand reinforcing the view that a trade-off exists between minimizing foraging time and maximizing food quantity. Such differences in feeding frequencies and the load sizes delivered may be explained by changes in the parents’ foraging tactic. Increase of brood size compelled parents to work harder and be less selective in prey choice; we found that stressed birds with a high level of feeding responsibility (hungry nestlings) opted to concentrate on more readily available food items (Tortricids). On the other hand, their immediate reaction when faced with a low level of feeding responsibility was to decrease this prey type in the diet, so that the percentage of other preys (Noctuids) in the diet increased. There was no intersexual difference in the way in which parents responded to the manipulation. In sum, our results revealed a flexibility in foraging strategies of blue tits to cope with changing scenarios, which supports the idea that provisioning behavior is largely governed by nestling demand.
Publisher version (URL)http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1439-0310.2010.01788.x/abstract
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