Emu Emu Society
Journal of BirdLife Australia
RESEARCH ARTICLE

The sources of diurnal variation in caching behaviour of South Island Robins (Petroica australis australis)

Craig A. Barnett A B C and Naoko Emura B

A School of Biological Sciences, University of Canterbury, Christchurch 4800, New Zealand.

B Department of Life Science, Rikkyo University, Nishi-ikebukuro 3-34-1, Toshima-ku, Tokyo 171-8501, Japan.

C Corresponding author. Email: optimalforager@hotmail.com

Emu 114(4) 379-384 http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/MU14020
Submitted: 4 December 2013  Accepted: 1 May 2014   Published: 13 November 2014

Abstract

There have been few studies of the food-storing behaviour of short-term scatter-hoarding birds in relation to differences in ambient temperature. In this study we examined the patterns of caching behaviour of 13 male South Island Robins (Petroica australis australis) in relation to the time of day and ambient temperature. We predicted that cold conditions would cause a stress-induced increase in caching behaviour in birds. We also predicted that birds would cache the greatest number of food items (mealworms) in the morning and that the numbers of items cached would decline throughout the day. We found that there was a negative relationship between the numbers of mealworms cached and temperature and that the numbers of mealworms that birds cached throughout the day declined. Finally, we also found that there was a positive relationship between the total number of mealworms that birds cached and their daily gains in mass. This study shows that at low temperatures, energy is more valuable to birds when stored internally than it is for other caching species as other taxa (e.g. parids) increase caching as temperature decreases. Our results also support theoretical models of avian caching behaviour, which show that birds should reduce the absolute number of food items they cache throughout the day as they prepare for their nightly fasts.

Additional keywords: Food hoarding, mass regulation strategies, temperature.


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