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Keywords:

  • Agricultural change;
  • food competition;
  • foraging behaviour

Summary

  • 1
    Mechanistic models may be able to predict how changes in agricultural practice influence farmland bird populations. A key component of these models is the link between food and competitor densities and the rate at which birds consume food, i.e. the functional response.
  • 2
    This paper tests whether the functional response of a farmland bird, the rook Corvus frugilegus, can be predicted from three parameters: searching speed, food detection distance and handling time. It is often difficult to measure the functional response of farmland birds directly, but it may be possible to measure behavioural parameters more quickly.
  • 3
    We performed experiments in which rooks fed on a range of artificial food densities in two grass sward heights. Food detection distance was greater in the shorter sward, but sward height did not influence searching speed or handling time. The functional response could be accurately predicted in both sward heights.
  • 4
    We show that the functional response of a farmland bird can be predicted from parameters that can be measured more quickly than the alternative of measuring the functional response directly. This implies that the functional responses of other farmland birds may be predicted using a minimum of information.