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Abstract

Predator mobbing has been viewed as an adaptation to reduce the risk of predation, however, factors influencing mobbing behaviour are still debated. We report on the results of an experiment with Dendroica caerulescens and Dendroica virens designed to determine (1) whether mobbing response by forest songbirds during the breeding season is restricted by territory boundaries, (2) the distance songbirds will move in response to anti-predator mobbing calls, and (3) whether reproductive status, age, and time of the breeding season determine the distance moved to mob. We did not detect an effect of reproductive status, age, or time of breeding season on the distance moved by birds to mob. All birds responded to the mobbing playback within their territory (defined by territorial defence in relation to specific song playbacks). The maximum distance moved within a territory to engage in mobbing ranged from 25 to 175 m (inline image = 72 ± 6 m). Three of 37 birds responded to playbacks outside their territory boundaries. In all three cases, maximum movement distances outside territories were short (25 m). Thus, for two species of warblers, mobbing is highly constrained by territory boundaries during the breeding season. This finding is congruent with arguments that mobbing is primarily a selfish behaviour, at least with respect to conspecifics. Our results also provide support for the ‘move-on’ hypothesis.