Predator recognition and differential behavioural responses of adult wood warblers Phylloscopus sibilatrix
Birds often engage in nest defence against predators to improve breeding success, but defence efficiency requires the capability to assess the threat level posed by potential predators. For species with low breeding-site tenacity, which may encounter varying occurrence and density of predators in different areas, threat recognition could be compromised due to naivety, and so predator recognition may focus on broad key features to diminish the risk of misidentification. We experimentally tested this hypothesis by recording behavioural reactions of the nomadic wood warbler Phylloscopus sibilatrix to objects reflecting various levels of threat: least weasel and Eurasian jay taxidermy mounts, an inanimate object and an empty display mount. To assess actual nest predators, we used remote cameras to record predation events at wood warbler nests. As in other studies in Western Europe, Eurasian jay was found to be the main nest predator, with occasional predation by least weasel. The reaction of adult warblers to the models was generally to remain silent and on nests during the incubation stage presumably due to the need to maintain efficient nest camouflage and concealment. During the nestling stage, behavioural responses of adult warblers, calling and suspended feeding of young, showed the strongest effects from the jay taxidermy mount, moderate to the weasel and weakest to the inanimate object and empty mount. As the reaction of wood warblers reflected the degree of genuine threat posed by the predators depicted by the models, we conclude that predator recognition may be present in this species.
Publisher URL: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10211-017-0275-2
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