Birds of Indian Subcontinent

Flock Size, Food Dispersion, and the Feeding Behavior of Crossbills

Publication Type:Journal Article
Year of Publication:1988
Authors:Benkman, CW
Journal:Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology
Date Published:1988
ISBN Number:03405443
Keywords:Fringillidae, Loxia, Loxia curvirostra
Abstract:Feeding rates of five captive red crossbills (Loxia curvirostra) were measured when they were foraging alone, and in flocks of two or four on three seed dispersion patterns. On the most strongly clumped seed dispersion, individuals had higher mean feeding rates and the smallest probability of starvation when in flocks of two than when alone or in flocks of four. Individuals in flocks of four had higher feeding rates on the weakly clumped seed dispersion than on the uniform and more clumped seed dispersions; there were no food finding benefits gained from flocking on the uniform seed dispersion and aggression increased as food became more clumped. Most recent work has assumed that flocking results in higher feeding rates only because time spent vigilant is reduced. Crossbills, however, did not visit more cones per unit time as flock size increased, as would be expected if less time was spent vigilant. Thus, any reductions in vigilance as flock size increased were countered by increases in other behaviours, such as those related to aggression. Consequently, the higher mean feeding rates of crossbills in flocks than when solitary is not attributable to reduced vigilance. The increase in mean and the decline in variance of feeding rates occurred because crossbills in flocks found good patches earlier, and possible by spending less time assessing poor patches.
Short Title:Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology
Scratchpads developed and conceived by (alphabetical): Ed Baker, Katherine Bouton Alice Heaton Dimitris Koureas, Laurence Livermore, Dave Roberts, Simon Rycroft, Ben Scott, Vince Smith