Individual differences in decision making by foraging hummingbirds

K.V. Morgan, T.A. Hurly, S.D. Healy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


For both humans and animals preference for one option over others can be influenced by the context in which the options occur. In animals, changes in preference could be due to comparative decision-making or to changes in the energy state of the animal when making decisions. We investigated which of these possibilities better explained the response of wild hummingbirds to the addition of a decoy option to a set of two options by presenting Rufous hummingbirds (Selasphorus rufus) with a foraging experiment with two treatments. In each treatment the birds were presented with a binary choice between two options and a trinary choice with three options. In treatment one the binary choice was between a volume option and a concentration option, whereas in treatment two the same volume option was presented alongside an alternative concentration option. In the trinary choice, birds were presented with the same options as in the binary choice plus one of two inferior options. Birds changed their preferences when a poorer option was added to the choice set: birds increased their preference for the same option when in the presence of either decoy. Which option differed across individuals and the changes in preference were not readily explained by either energy maximisation or the decoy effect. The consistency in response within individuals, however, would suggest that the individual itself brings an extra dimension to context-dependent decision-making. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled: Cognition in the wild.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)195-200
Number of pages6
JournalBehavioural Processes
Issue numberPart B
Early online date30 Aug 2014
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2014


  • Asymetrically dominated decoy
  • Context-dependent choice
  • Decision making
  • Foraging
  • Humingbird
  • Individual differences


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