Effect of Daily Body Mass Variation on the Foraging Behaviour of Tit Species (Parus spp.)


Andrés Barbosa, Estación Experimental de Zonas Aridas, CSIC, C/General Segura, 1, E-04001, Almería, Spain. E-mail: barbosa@eeza.csic.es


We studied the effect of daily body mass increase on the foraging preferences of two tit species, crested tit, Parus cristatus and blue tit, P. caeruleus, contrasting in morphology and behaviour. We found that both species show a diurnal increase in body mass during winter. Using an experiment with feeders we show that in the crested tit, the proportion of time spent foraging while hanging decreased as body mass increased. In contrast, in the blue tit, foraging behaviour did not change with mass gain. We propose that the species with a morphological design providing a high ecological plasticity in terms of foraging postures can counteract the negative effect of body mass on the ecological options (foraging niche) more than species with a morphological design providing a low ecological plasticity in terms of foraging postures. Our results suggest that blue tits had the advantage of being able to choose to feed on different patches in the habitat throughout the day, which makes resources more predictable for them. In contrast, crested tits might be more restricted in their foraging options as their body mass increases, and this might explain why they hoard food.