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Comparative analysis of behavioural response of captive-reared and wild-trapped Northern Bobwhites to simulated predator attacks

Posted on 16. March, 2018.

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Isolated populations of Northern Bobwhites (Colinus virginianus) have declined causing many landowners to attempt population restoration by releasing captive-reared birds. These attempts have resulted in high mortality rates, which we hypothesised are caused by captive-reared birds exhibiting more naive predator avoidance behaviour than wild birds.

Captive-reared and wild-trapped Northern Bobwhites were subjected to raptorial and terrestrial predator simulations and their responses were recorded on high definition video. We recorded the time to predator detection, time to anti-predator defence, and reaction type for comparative analysis. Captive-reared birds detected simulated predators quicker than wild-trapped birds, but time to mount an anti-predator defence was not different between groups. The response type, however, was different between groups. Captive-reared birds typically flushed when encountering a simulated predator; yet, wild-trapped birds did not flush at all, and typically ran or held when subjected to the simulated predators. We hypothesise that flushing is a naive anti-predator response that results in revealing of position in the presence of a threat, thereby increasing the individual risk of predation. These results potentially illuminate at least one reason why captive-reared Northern Bobwhite releases have been largely unsuccessful.

Read the full article in Avian Biology Research, Volume 11, Number 1, February 2018, pp. 16-23.


Authors: Kelly S. Reyna* and William L. Newman
Department of Biological Sciences, UNT Quail Program, University of North Texas, Denton, Texas 76203, USA

Keywords: Northern Bobwhite, Colinus virginianus, ethology, quail, wildlife

Image: Northern Bobwite. Photo by Steve Maslowski, US Fish & wildlife Service.