Birds at the winter feeder do not recognize an artificially coloured predator


Petr Veselý, Markéta Buršíková, Roman Fuchs

DOI: 10.1111/eth.12565


It is supposed that coloration may affect the recognition of predators by prey species; nevertheless, the significance of the coloration and its particular components in the recognition process remains unknown. We presented dummies of the European sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus) with changed body coloration, but with all other typical features preserved (body size and shape, beak, eyes, legs), to great tits (Parus major) and blue tits (Cyanistes caeruleus) visiting a winter feeder. A pigeon (Columba livia f. domestica) dummy was used as a harmless control. Neither tit species showed passive avoidance in the presence of a dummy with an artificial, violet-white chequered coloration. They obviously did not consider such an object to be a predator despite the presence of the raptor beak, eyes and talons. Sparrowhawk dummies with the coloration completely changed (altered with those of a harmless European robin) or with the typical colour feature removed (barred pattern on the underparts) were considered to be as dangerous as the unmodified sparrowhawk. We discuss the possibility that the effect of salient raptor-like features such as beak shape, eye coloration, and leg and talons shape overwhelmed the effect of body coloration in these cases. Birds visiting the feeder probably were able to generalize the vigilance towards the sparrowhawk to other realistically coloured dummies, but not to the non-natural dummy.

Back to scientific papers.