Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

For the birds: Winged predators seek certain trees when foraging for caterpillars

Date:
January 27, 2012
Source:
University of California - Irvine
Summary:
Location matters for birds on the hunt for caterpillars, according to researchers. Findings suggest that chickadees and others zero in on the type of tree as much as the characteristics of their wriggly prey.

A black-capped chickadee prepares to dine on a caterpillar.
Credit: Christian Skorik / Wesleyan University

Location matters for birds on the hunt for caterpillars, according to researchers at UC Irvine and Wesleyan University. Findings suggest that chickadees and others zero in on the type of tree as much as the characteristics of their wriggly prey.

Unfortunately for caterpillars, munching on tree leaves that are healthy and tasty can dramatically boost their own risk of becoming food. Study results, published online this week in The American Naturalist, show that dining on the trees that are most nutritious for caterpillars -- such as the black cherry -- can increase by 90 percent their chances of being devoured by a discerning bird.

"The jump in risk is surprising," said co-author Kailen Mooney, assistant professor of ecology & evolutionary biology at UCI. "It shows that for caterpillars, moving from one tree to the next can mean the difference between getting eaten and surviving."

The findings indicate a "neat potential pest control system," because the healthiest tree species harbor the greatest number of caterpillars, thereby offering the easiest pickings for winged predators, said lead author Michael Singer of Wesleyan. "Our study addresses basic theoretical questions in ecology, but we also want forest managers and conservation biologists to take away practical knowledge."

Mooney, who specializes in the ecology of predatory birds, said tree identification is probably learned by birds, not genetic. He added that Southern California bird species probably do the same with coastal sage scrub, determining which types of bushes afford a better chance of tasty insect treats.

With help from a small army of students, the scientists conducted a two-year experiment in Connecticut forests involving hundreds of tree branches either covered with bird-proof netting or left bare.

Mooney noted that the results illustrate a stark choice between gaining strength through a good diet but being more vulnerable to predators and remaining weaker and hungrier but more safe.

"If a caterpillar could feed on nutritious, high-quality tree species and be left alone, this would be the best of all worlds," he said. "Instead, it's faced with a trade-off. Overall, it appears that it's better to feed on poor-quality tree species and have fewer caterpillars around you than to be on a nutritious plant with many others."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of California - Irvine. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Michael S. Singer, Timothy E. Farkas, Christian M. Skorik, Kailen A. Mooney. Tritrophic Interactions at a Community Level: Effects of Host Plant Species Quality on Bird Predation of Caterpillars. The American Naturalist, 2012; [link]

Cite This Page:

University of California - Irvine. "For the birds: Winged predators seek certain trees when foraging for caterpillars." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 27 January 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/01/120126143653.htm>.
University of California - Irvine. (2012, January 27). For the birds: Winged predators seek certain trees when foraging for caterpillars. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 30, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/01/120126143653.htm
University of California - Irvine. "For the birds: Winged predators seek certain trees when foraging for caterpillars." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/01/120126143653.htm (accessed September 30, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

California University Designs Sustainable Winery

California University Designs Sustainable Winery

Reuters - US Online Video (Sep. 27, 2014) Amid California's worst drought in decades, scientists at UC Davis design a sustainable winery that includes a water recycling system. Vanessa Johnston reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Argentina Worries Over Decline of Soybean Prices

Argentina Worries Over Decline of Soybean Prices

AFP (Sep. 27, 2014) The drop in price of soy on the international market is a cause for concern in Argentina, as soybean exports are a major source of income for Latin America's third largest economy. Duration: 01:10 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Mama Bear, Cubs Hang out in California Backyard

Mama Bear, Cubs Hang out in California Backyard

Reuters - US Online Video (Sep. 27, 2014) A mama bear and her two cubs climb trees, wrestle and take naps in the backyard of a Monrovia, California home. Vanessa Johnston reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
'Crazy' Climate Forces Colombian Farmers to Adapt

'Crazy' Climate Forces Colombian Farmers to Adapt

AFP (Sep. 26, 2014) Once upon a time, farming was a blissfully low-tech business on Colombia's northern plains. Duration: 02:05 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins