Grieco, F. (2002) Time constraint on food choice in provisioning blue tits, Parus caeruleus: the relationship between feeding rate and prey size. Animal Behaviour, 64,, 517-526. ISSN 0003-3472.
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Official URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1006/anbe.2002.3073
Previous work on food-provisioning behaviour in blue tits suggested that the parents could gather larger prey items only by making longer foraging excursions, for example, by being more selective or by reaching more distant (and less exploited) feeding sites. Here, I show that within-nest, within-day variation in size of prey delivered by the parent could be explained by the time since its last visit. In unmanipulated conditions, size of larvae tended to increase with the time spent away from the nest. A significant positive relationship was more likely at high provisioning rates, suggesting that periods of intense feeding limited the size of prey delivered to the brood. To assess the effect of less intense feeding on prey size, I experimentally increased food availability to the tits. The parents could decide whether to eat the extra food or feed it to the nestlings. In both cases, food supplementation could result in longer time lags between natural feedings. Food-supplemented parents consumed the extra food and fed it to their nestlings, made longer foraging trips and delivered larger natural larvae than controls. In this group, size of larvae was more constant during the observation period and was independent of the time since the parent's last visit. This suggests that, below some value of visit rate, prey size is no longer limited by the duration of the foraging trip. The results support the view that tits continually vary visit rate and prey size. There is some evidence that these adjustments are made by changing food selectivity in response to changes in the state of the brood and of the parents
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