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Food, Flocking and Territorial Behaviour of the Pied Wagtail (Motacilla alba yarrellii Gould) in Winter

N. B. Davies
Journal of Animal Ecology
Vol. 45, No. 1 (Feb., 1976), pp. 235-253
DOI: 10.2307/3777
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3777
Page Count: 19
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
Food, Flocking and Territorial Behaviour of the Pied Wagtail (Motacilla alba yarrellii Gould) in Winter
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Abstract

(1) The food of pied wagtails in winter, on a meadow near Oxford, England, was studied using an emetic and analysis of remains in droppings. The diet was almost entirely insectivorous. Feeding methods and prey selection are discussed. (2) Wagtails spent 90% of the day feeding and one prey item was eaten every 4 s throughout the day. (3) Some single birds and pairs defended permanent territories along a river where feeding was predictably good. The area suitable for feeding was about the same in each territory. (4) Other birds fed in flocks and exploited temporary patches of abundant food. Dispersion of individuals in the flock varied with the dispersion of the food, there being more aggression on clumped food sources. (5) Territorial owners left their territories when food there was short and they then fed with the flock birds, although they still returned periodically to their territories to defend them against intruders. However, when feeding conditions in the territories were exceptionally good they were invaded by the flock birds and became indefensible. (6) The rapid changes in social behaviour from a solitary to a flocking state, which sometimes took place within a minute, are discussed with reference to changes in food supply.

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