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Does optimal foraging theory explain why suburban Florida scrub-jays (Aphelocoma coerulescens) feed their young human-provided food?


Sauter, Annette; Bowman, Reed; Schoech, Stephan J; Pasinelli, Gilberto (2006). Does optimal foraging theory explain why suburban Florida scrub-jays (Aphelocoma coerulescens) feed their young human-provided food? Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, 60(4):465-474.

Abstract

Optimal foraging theory assumes that a forager can adequately assess the quality of its prey and predicts that parents feed their young low-quality foods only when suffering unpredicted reductions in their ability to provision. Wildland Florida scrub-jays feed their young exclusively arthropods, but suburban parents include human-provided foods in the nestling diet, with possible costs in terms of reduced growth and survival. We tested experimentally whether parents feed human-provided foods, given the apparent costs, because: 1) they do not discriminate between food types, 2) they switch to low-quality, abundant foods when natural food availability in the environment is low, or 3) they switch when the time needed to obtain natural food is high. Parents discriminated between natural and human-provided foods by showing a preference for natural foods when rearing young. When the handling time of natural foods was increased experimentally, parents in the suburban and wildland habitats switched to human-provided foods. Supplementation with natural foods increased preference for this food in both habitats. Suburban parents chose more natural foods than wildland parents, suggesting that they have a greater preference for natural foods. Regardless of preferences demonstrated at feeders, parents in both the suburbs and wildlands delivered mostly natural foods to nestlings, independent of natural food availability. Nonetheless, natural foods are likely to be scarcer in the environment than in our experimental tests. Because natural food availability is lower in the suburbs than in the wildland habitat, parents in the suburbs may be forced to switch to human-provided foods when feeding nestlings.

Abstract

Optimal foraging theory assumes that a forager can adequately assess the quality of its prey and predicts that parents feed their young low-quality foods only when suffering unpredicted reductions in their ability to provision. Wildland Florida scrub-jays feed their young exclusively arthropods, but suburban parents include human-provided foods in the nestling diet, with possible costs in terms of reduced growth and survival. We tested experimentally whether parents feed human-provided foods, given the apparent costs, because: 1) they do not discriminate between food types, 2) they switch to low-quality, abundant foods when natural food availability in the environment is low, or 3) they switch when the time needed to obtain natural food is high. Parents discriminated between natural and human-provided foods by showing a preference for natural foods when rearing young. When the handling time of natural foods was increased experimentally, parents in the suburban and wildland habitats switched to human-provided foods. Supplementation with natural foods increased preference for this food in both habitats. Suburban parents chose more natural foods than wildland parents, suggesting that they have a greater preference for natural foods. Regardless of preferences demonstrated at feeders, parents in both the suburbs and wildlands delivered mostly natural foods to nestlings, independent of natural food availability. Nonetheless, natural foods are likely to be scarcer in the environment than in our experimental tests. Because natural food availability is lower in the suburbs than in the wildland habitat, parents in the suburbs may be forced to switch to human-provided foods when feeding nestlings.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:07 Faculty of Science > Institute of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies
Dewey Decimal Classification:570 Life sciences; biology
590 Animals (Zoology)
Uncontrolled Keywords:human-provided foods; florida scrub-jay; nestling diet; diet switching; urbanization
Language:English
Date:2006
Deposited On:28 Mar 2013 14:29
Last Modified:05 Apr 2016 16:27
Publisher:Springer
ISSN:0340-5443
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1007/s00265-006-0187-z

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