Impaired Predator Evasion in Fat Blackcaps (Sylvia atricapilla)
When birds are attacked by predators, take-off ability is crucial for the chance of survival. Recently, theoretical studies have predicted that predation risk in terms of reduced flight performance increases with body mass. However, empirical data are scarce. Because migratory birds sometimes double their body mass, mass dependent predation risk may be especially important during migratory fattening. Here we present the first study of take-off ability in relation to migratory fat load. Alarmed take-off flights of caged blackcaps (Sylvia atricapilla) induced by a simulated predator attack were analysed in terms of velocity and angle of ascent. Fat loads (percentage of fat-free body mass) of the birds ranged from 1% to 59%. An increase in fat load was found to influence both velocity and angle of ascent. From our results we calculated that blackcaps carrying 60% fat loads would have 32% lower angle of ascent and 17% lower velocity than blackcaps carrying no fat load. Even though the effect of fat load on the blackcaps was less than indicated in previous experimental studies of other species, our results suggest that the large fat loads needed for migration probably place them at increased risk of predation.
Proceedings of the Royal Society of London Series B
- Pub Date:
- December 1996