In theory, survival rates and consequent population status might be predictable from instantaneous behavioural measures of how animals prioritize foraging vs. avoiding predation. We show, for the 30 most common small bird species ringed in the UK, that one quarter respond to higher predation risk as if it is mass-dependent and lose mass. Half respond to predation risk as if it only interrupts their foraging and gain mass thus avoiding consequent increased starvation risk from reduced foraging time. These mass responses to higher predation risk are correlated with population and conservation status both within and between species (and independently of foraging habitat, foraging guild, sociality index and size) over the last 30 years in Britain, with mass loss being associated with declining populations and mass gain with increasing populations. If individuals show an interrupted foraging response to higher predation risk, they are likely to be experiencing a high quality foraging environment that should lead to higher survival. Whereas individuals that show a mass-dependent foraging response are likely to be in lower quality foraging environments, leading to relatively lower survival.
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