Predator recognition

Bird as prey

Predation usually has serious consequences on the fitness of any living creature. Animal can be seriously hurt or killed when it is not able to protect itself from the interaction with a predator. On the other hand, hiding or running away from a harmless animal is time-consuming and energetically costly as well. Therefore, the ability to recognize the predator and to react properly is essential for survival in nature.

Manipulation with a raptor dummy allows us to find the cues that are necessary for predator recognition. Generally, we are using two main approaches to test the reaction of wild birds. The first of them is the dummy presentation on a feeder attended by free-ranging birds. The amount of perceived thread can be estimated by the proportion of birds avoiding the feeder during the dummy presence. The second approach is the dummy presentation to a single bird in a cage under laboratory conditions. This approach allows us to study the reaction in more detail and to deal with the particular features of fear-related behaviour.

The sum of our current knowledge implies that there are some important global features like overall colouration, size, and spatial organization. Nevertheless, even small local features play an important role. Raptor dummy without the yellow eye, hooked beak, or conspicuous claws is treated as harmless by most of the tested birds.

People involved in this research:

  • Jája Beránková
  • Petr Veselý
  • Roman Fuchs