Predation can be an important agent of natural selection shaping parental care behaviours, and can also favour behavioural plasticity. Parent birds often decrease the rate that they visit the nest to provision offspring when perceived risk is high. Yet, the plasticity of such responses may differ among species as a function of either their relative risk of predation, or the mean rate of provisioning. Here, we report parental provisioning responses to experimental increases in the perceived risk of predation. We tested responses of 10 species of bird in north temperate Arizona and subtropical Argentina that differed in their ambient risk of predation. All species decreased provisioning rates in response to the nest predator but not to a control. However, provisioning rates decreased more in species that had greater ambient risk of predation on natural nests. These results support theoretical predictions that the extent of plasticity of a trait that is sensitive to nest predation risk should vary among species in accordance with predation risk.
Additional publication details
Plasticity of parental care under the risk of predation: how much should parents reduce care?