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Foraging Behavior of Forest Birds: The Relationships Among Search Tactics, Diet, and Habitat Structure

Scott K. Robinson and Richard T. Holmes
Ecology
Vol. 63, No. 6 (Dec., 1982), pp. 1918-1931
Published by: Wiley
DOI: 10.2307/1940130
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1940130
Page Count: 14
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Foraging Behavior of Forest Birds: The Relationships Among Search Tactics, Diet, and Habitat Structure
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Abstract

The different searching tactics of passerine birds foraging for arthropods among the foliage of a northern hardwoods forest result in the capture of different kinds of prey. Five major searching modes are employed by the 11 foliage-foraging bird species in the Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest, New Hampshire. These are distinguished primarily by the rates and distances moved by the searching birds and by the types and forms of their prey-attacking maneuvers. These in turn reflect how large an area is scanned, how thoroughly it is searched, and how the bird moves from perch to perch in its search for prey. Mean searching and prey-attacking flight distances are positively correlated, indicating that birds move just far enough on average to take them into areas they have not previously searched visually. Likewise, birds that move rapidly while searching make significantly more prey attacks per unit time and hence encounter prey more often. Slow searchers scrutinize substrates more thoroughly and seem to take more cryptic and often larger prey. The results suggest that there are limitations on the ways that birds can search for and capture arthropod prey among foliage. We hypothesize that constraints imposed by the structure of the vegetation and by the types and abundances of prey determine the available foraging opportunities. Such habitat parameters may affect, in ecological or evolutionary time, the foraging traits of birds that can successfully exploit a particular habitat, and hence influence the patterns of bird habitat selection and community structure.

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