Great tits take greater risk toward humans and sparrowhawks in urban habitats than in forests

Ernő Vincze, Ivett Pipoly, Gábor Seress, Bálint Preiszner, Sándor Papp, Brigitta Németh, András Liker, Veronika Bókony

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Urban animals often take more risk toward humans than their non-urban conspecifics do, but it is unclear how urbanization affects behavior toward non-human predators. Responses to humans and non-human predators may covary due to common mechanisms enforcing a phenotypic correlation. However, while increased tolerance toward humans may be advantageous for urban animals, reduced vigilance toward non-human predators that can pose actual threat may be costly. Therefore, urban animals may benefit from showing specific responses to different threat levels, such as humans versus non-human predators, or hostile versus non-hostile humans. To test these alternatives, we compared responses (latencies to return to nest) of urban and forest-breeding great tits (Parus major) to familiar hostile and unfamiliar humans as well as one of their common predators, the sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus). We found that urban birds were more risk-taking toward both humans and sparrowhawk than forest birds. However, responses to sparrowhawk did not correlate with responses to humans either within or across habitats. This suggests that higher risk-taking of urban compared to forest-dwelling great tits toward sparrowhawk may be threat-specific response to lower predation risk rather than a spillover effect of increased tolerance to humans. Furthermore, birds responded similarly to unfamiliar and familiar (potentially dangerous) humans in both habitats, suggesting that great tits may not adjust their risk-taking to the threat represented by individual humans. These findings indicate that urban birds may flexibly adjust their risk-taking to certain, but not all, types of threat.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)686-701
Number of pages16
JournalEthology
Volume125
Issue number10
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Oct 1 2019

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Keywords

  • avian anti-predator behavior
  • behavioral spillover
  • predator discrimination
  • urbanization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Animal Science and Zoology

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