Body mass change strategies in blackbirds Turdus merula: the starvation-predation risk trade-off

Blackbird (Turdus merula) Science Article 4


It is theoretically well established that body mass in birds is the consequence of a trade-off between starvation risk and predation risk. There are, however, no studies of mass variation from sufficiently large wild populations to model in detail the range of diurnal and seasonal mass change patterns in natural populations and how these are linked to the complex environmental and biological variables that may affect the trade-off. This study used data on 17 000 individual blackbirds Turdus merula to model how mass changes diurnally and seasonally over the whole year and over a wide geographical area. Mass change was modelled in respect of temperature, rainfall, day length, geographical location, time of day and time of year and the results show how these mass changes vary with individual size, age and sex. The hypothesis that seasonal mass is optimized over the year and changes in line with predictors of foraging uncertainty was tested. As theory predicts, reduced day length and reduced temperature result in increased mass and the expected seasonal peak of mass in midwinter.

R. MACLEOD, P. BARNETT, J. A. CLARK and W. CRESSWELL, Journal of Animal Ecology 74 (2), 292-302

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