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Research article2009Peer reviewedOpen access

Vigilance and predation of a forest-living bird species depend on large-scale habitat structure

Griesser, Michael; Nystrand, Magdalena


Prey often use visual cues to detect predators, and consequently, many studies have assessed the effect of small-scale habitat structure on prey antipredator vigilance. This scale may be inappropriate to assess the link between habitat structure and vigilance, however, because visually hunting predators often detect prey from several hundred meters away. As a result, large-scale habitat structure could affect both the hunting decisions of predators and antipredator behaviors of prey. Here we investigated the effect of small- and large-scale habitat structure, as well as group composition (kinship) on vigilance allocation of breeders in the Siberian jay Perisoreus infaustus. Vigilance had an antipredator function and was increased after exposure to a predator model. Small-scale habitat structure did not affect vigilance rates, however, habitat structure of the whole territory, measured as the proportion of visual cover, affected vigilance depending on group composition. Breeders with retained offspring (kin) in their group were more vigilant in managed open territories than on pristine dense territories, whereas breeders without kin in their groups did not adjust vigilance rates in relation to large-scaled habitat structure. Earlier studies have revealed that hawks, the main predators of jays, primarily kill non-kin group members living in groups inhabiting open territories. Therefore, we suggest that breeders adjusted their vigilance depending on the habitat-specific predation risk to protect their retained offspring. This demonstrates that large-scale habitat structure affects predator-prey interactions and is crucial to understanding spatial variation in antipredator allocation and mortality.


delayed dispersal; family group; goshawk Accipiter gentilis; population dynamics; predation; risk taking; sparrow hawk Accipiter nisus

Published in

Behavioral Ecology
2009, Volume: 20, number: 4, pages: 709-715

    UKÄ Subject classification

    Environmental Sciences related to Agriculture and Land-use

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