Because antipredator behaviours are costly, the threat-sensitive predator avoidance hypothesis predicts that individual animals should express predator-avoidance behaviour proportionally to the perceived threat posed by the predator. Here, we experimentally tested this hypothesis by providing wild passerine birds supplemental food (on a raised feeding platform) at either 1 or 4 m from the edge of forest cover (potential refuge), in either the presence or absence of a nearby simulated predation threat (a sharp-shinned hawk Accipiter striatus model). Compared with the control treatment, we observed proportionally fewer bird visits to the food patch, and the birds took longer to re-emerge from forest refuge and return to feed at the food patch, after the hawk presentation than before it. The observed threat-sensitive latency-to-return response was stronger when the food patch was further away from the nearest refuge. Overall, our results are consistent with the predictions of the threat-sensitive predator avoidance hypothesis in that wild passerine birds (primarily black-capped chickadees Poecile atricapillus) exhibited more intense antipredator behavioural responses with increasing level of apparent threat. The birds were thus sensitive to their local perceived threat of predation and traded-off safety from predation (by refuging) and foraging gains in open habitat in a graded, threat-sensitive manner.

Additional Metadata
Keywords Birds, Distance-to-refuge, Foraging, Predation risk, Risk taking, Threat sensitivity
Journal Current Zoology
Turney, S. (Shaun), & Godin, J.-G.J. (2014). To forage or hide? Threat-sensitive foraging behaviour in wild, non-reproductive passerine birds. Current Zoology, 60(6), 719–728.