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Naturwissenschaften. 2002 Sep;89(9):420-3. Epub 2002 Jul 26.

Split-second escape decisions in blue tits (Parus caeruleus).

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Department of Zoology, Stockholm University, Sweden.


Bird mortality is heavily affected by birds of prey. Under attack, take-off is crucial for survival and even minor mistakes in initial escape response can have devastating consequences. Birds may respond differently depending on the character of the predator's attack and these split-second decisions were studied using a model merlin (Falco columbarius) that attacked feeding blue tits (Parus caeruleus) from two different attack angles in two different speeds. When attacked from a low attack angle they took off more steeply than when attacked from a high angle. This is the first study to show that escape behaviour also depends on predator attack speed. The blue tits responded to a high-speed attack by dodging sideways more often than when attacked at a low speed. Escape speed was not significantly affected by the different treatments. Although they have only a split-second before escaping an attack, blue tits do adjust their escape strategy to the prevailing attack conditions.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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