Predator hunting behaviour and prey vulnerability

JL Quinn, Will Cresswell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

116 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

1. Game theoretic models of how animals manage predation risk have begun to describe predator responses to prey behaviour relatively recently. This is partly because our understanding of how terrestrial predators select vertebrate prey is often limited to numerical and functional responses to measures of prey abundance. Prey vulnerability, however, may improve our understanding of predation because predators could maximize foraging success by selecting prey on this basis.

2. We tested the hypothesis that sparrowhawks (Accipiter nisus L.), a typical generalist predator, hunt redshanks (Tringa totanus L.), a favoured prey species on coastal shores, primarily on the basis of their vulnerability rather than their abundance.

3. Five direct measures or indicators of redshank behaviour predicted sparrowhawk attack success in a multipredictor statistical model and therefore serve as measures of redshank vulnerability.

4. These and other vulnerability measures influenced whether sparrowhawks decided to hunt redshanks on saltmarsh habitat. A model that included most of these measures predicted correctly whether sparrowhawks hunted redshanks (attack decision) 90% of the time and accounted for up to 75% of variation. Prey abundance accounted for no additional variation.

5. Thus the hunting behaviour of some predators can only be predicted well by several highly dynamic and interacting factors related to prey vulnerability. These results mean that, theoretically at least, the management of prey populations may sometimes be achieved best by manipulating prey vulnerability, rather than by culling their predators.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)143-154
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Animal Ecology
Volume73
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2004

Keywords

  • attack success
  • predation
  • prey availability
  • redshank
  • sparrowhawk
  • vigilance
  • REDSHANK TRINGA-TOTANUS
  • GROUP-SIZE
  • SOUTHEAST SCOTLAND
  • REDUCE PREDATION
  • RAPTOR PREDATION
  • HEN HARRIERS
  • RISK
  • VIGILANCE
  • SELECTION
  • TIME

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