False Alarm Calls as a Means of Resource Usurpation in the Great Tit Parus major


Department of Zoology, Uppsala University, Box 561, S-751 22 Uppsala.


Great tits Parus major regularly gave alarm calls in winter without the presence of actual or potential predators. Such false alarm calls were given to deceive both conspecifics and heterospecifics. False calls were given when flock-feeding sparrows Passer spp. monopolized a concentrated food source; if the food resource was dispersed false alarm calls were not used, independently of the presence of sparrows. Dominant great tits used alarm calls deceptively if a dominant conspecific was present on a concentrated food source but not if a subdominant individual was present; subdominant great tits were displaced by means of threat displays. Subdominant individuals gave false alarm calls both if dominant or subdominant conspecifics were present. False alarm calls were especially used when food was scarce or when great tits were feeding at a high rate, i.e. during snow storms and in the morning and the afternoon.