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Daily foraging routines and feeding effort of a small bird feeding on a predictable resource

  • Ola Olsson
  • Ulf Wiktander
  • Sven Nilsson
Publishing year: 2000
Language: English
Pages: 1457-1461
Publication/Series: Royal Society of London. Proceedings B. Biological Sciences
Volume: 267
Issue: 1451
Document type: Journal article
Publisher: Royal Society

Abstract english

According to theory, a small diurnal bird living in a predictable environment should have the highest feeding effort as late as possible in the day in order to minimize the time it carries large and costly reserves. The feeding effort should also decline with increasing food availability. We tested both these ideas with the lesser spotted woodpecker (Dendrocopos minor). For most of the year, this bird feeds on wood-living insects in dead tree branches. This food supply is likely to be highly predictable on a daily scale. Our results corroborated the theory. We found that the proportion of time spent actively feeding was lower in the mornings (before noon) than in the afternoons. We also found that woodpeckers spent less time feeding the higher their food availability. However, for a given food availability they spent more time feeding in the afternoons. This supports the idea that feeding is less and other activities are more valuable in the mornings given a predictable food resource. This is the first demonstration of daily routines in small birds concordant with a predictable environment. In spring, males but not females reduced their feeding time. This difference between the sexes may be related to their sex-specific reproductive effort.


  • Ecology


  • ISSN: 1471-2954
Sven G. Nilsson
E-mail: sven [dot] nilsson [at] biol [dot] lu [dot] se

Professor emeritus




Research group

Biodiversity and Conservation Science