The effect of energy reserves on social foraging: Hungry sparrows scrounge more

Research output: Article

56 Citations (Scopus)


Animals often use alternative strategies when they compete for resources, but it is unclear in most cases what factors determine the actual tactic followed by individuals. Although recent models suggest that the internal state of animals may be particularly important in tactic choice, the effects of state variables on the use of alternative behavioural forms have rarely been demonstrated. In this study, using experimental wind exposure to increase overnight energy expenditure, we show that flock-feeding house sparrows (Passer domesticus) with lowered energy reserves increase their use of scrounging (exploiting others' food findings) during their first feed of the day. This result is in accordance with the prediction of a state-dependent model of use of social foraging tactics. We also show that scrounging provides less variable feeding rates and patch finding times than the alternative tactic. These latter results support the theoretical assumption that scrounging is a risk-averse tactic, i.e. it reduces the risk of immediate starvation. As the level of energy reserves predicts the use of social foraging tactics, we propose that selection should favour individuals that monitor the internal state of flock mates and use this information to adjust their own tactic choice.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2467-2472
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1556
Publication statusPublished - dec. 7 2004

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Immunology and Microbiology(all)
  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'The effect of energy reserves on social foraging: Hungry sparrows scrounge more'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

  • Cite this