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Do actual and perceived landscapes of risk of small forests birds align?

Jessica L.
1Undergradutate, 2Faculty,

1 Burnett

& Kathryn E.

2 Sieving

Dept. of Wildlife Ecology and Conservation, Univ. of Florida

Dept. of Wildlife Ecology and Conservation, Univ. of Florida

Predator location and presence can affect the foraging behavior and distribution of prey animals by altering their perception of risk across space and time. Prey continuously analyze and interpret available social and personal information to interpret their chance of predation, perceptibly altering a mental image of high and low risk sites (the perceived landscape of fear). We are interested to find out how effective prey use of social and personal information is in estimating the actual landscape of risk and whether small, prey birds perceived landscape of predation risk aligns with their actual predation risk1,2.

1. To determine predator presence and predatory attack rates using distress calls (hunting opportunity) of the TUTI. To compare prey responses across habitat types to playback calls (low-threat situation) of an eastern screech owl (Asio megascops, ESOW).

Prey birds actual risk of predation by owls and hawks lies in hardwood only. Preys perceived threat highest in hardwood (prey do not approach speaker in hardwood or edge habitat) Owl detection significantly improved during distress calls in hardwood. Hawk detection in edge and hardwood will likely improve with more sampling.


The actual distribution of predators that are dangerous to small birds aligns with the perception of attack risk by prey birds that inhabit multiple habitat types.


Using an elevated speaker, we take a pre-playback census (2 min.) of all avian species within a 50m radius (available birds). Playback recording is played (either distress or owl) for 5 min.; all birds to enter a 25m radius of the speaker are documented. Finally, we take a 2 min. post-playback census of all birds within 25m.

Overall decline of prey abundance in edge and hardwood and increase in pine during owl playback. Owl detection significantly improved in hardwood. Accipiter detection almost significantly increased in hardwood; more sampling needed. Prey respond to owl playback in pine only.

Laiolo, Paola, et al. Distress calls may honestly signal bird quality to predators. Proceedings of the Royal Society 271 (2004): 5513-15. 2 Sieving, et al. Heterospecific facilitation of forest boundarycrossing by mobbing and understory birds. Auk 121(2004):738-51.


Contact Information
Jessica L. Burnett Wildlife Ecol. & Conservation University of Florida Gainesville, FL 32611-0430 352.575.5423 jburnett9@ufl.edu Kathryn E. Sieving Wildlife Ecol. & Conservation University of Florida Gainesville, FL 32611-0430 352.846.0569