Les hommes ont oublié cette vérité. Mais tu ne dois pas l'oublier, dit le renard. Tu deviens responsable pour toujours de ce que tu as apprivoisé.
Le Petit Prince, chap. 21

Sunday, 4 August 2013

Antipredator strategies of house finches in towns

Valcarcel, A., & Fernández-Juricic, E. (2009). Antipredator strategies of house finches: are urban habitats safe spots from predators even when humans are around?. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, 63(5), 673-685.

Urbanization decreases species diversity, but it increases the abundance of certain species with high tolerance to human activities. The safe-habitat hypothesis explains this pattern through a decrease in the abundance of native predators, which reduces predation risk in urban habitats. However, this hypothesis does not consider the potential negative effects of human-associated disturbance (e.g., pedestrians, dogs, cats). Our goal was to assess the degree of perceived predation risk in house finches (Carpodacus mexicanus) through field studies and semi-natural experiments in areas with different levels of urbanization using multiple indicators of risk (flock size, flight initiation distance, vigilance, and foraging behavior). Field studies showed that house finches in more urbanized habitats had a greater tendency to flock with an increase in population density and flushed at larger distances than in less urbanized habitats. In the semi-natural experiment, we found that individuals spent a greater proportion of time in the refuge patch and increased the instantaneous pecking rate in the more urbanized habitat with pedestrians probably to compensate for the lower amount of foraging time. Vigilance parameters were influenced in different ways depending on habitat type and distance to flock mates. Our results suggest that house finches may perceive highly urbanized habitats as more dangerous, despite the lower number of native predators. This could be due to the presence of human activities, which could increase risk or modify the ability to detect predators. House finches seem to adapt to the urban environment through different behavioral strategies that minimize risk.

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