The ovenbird (Seiurus aurocapilla) as a model for testing food-value theory

The American Midland Naturalist
By: , and 



Food-value theory states that territorial animals space themselves such that each territory contains adequate food for rearing young. The ovenbird (Seiurus aurocapilla) is often cited as a species for which this hypothesis is supported because ovenbird territory size is inversely related to ground-invertebrate abundance within territories. However, little is known about juvenile ovenbird diet and whether food availability is accurately assessed using ground-sampling methods. We examined the relationship between ground-litter food availability and juvenile ovenbird diet in mixed northern hardwood-coniferous forests of north-central Minnesota. We sampled food availability with pitfall traps and litter samples, and concurrently sampled diet of juvenile ovenbirds from stomach samples. We found that juvenile ovenbirds were fed selectively from available food resources. In addition, we found that both ground-sampling methods greatly under-sampled forest caterpillars and snails, which together comprised 63% of juvenile ovenbird diet by mass. Combined with recent radio-telemetry findings that spot-mapping methods can poorly estimate territory size for forest songbirds, our results suggest that comparisons of spot-mapped ovenbird territories with ground-sampled invertebrate availability may not be reliable tests of food-value theory.

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title The ovenbird (Seiurus aurocapilla) as a model for testing food-value theory
Series title The American Midland Naturalist
DOI 10.1674/0003-0031-169.1.214
Volume 169
Issue 1
Year Published 2013
Language English
Publisher University of Notre Dame
Contributing office(s) Coop Res Unit Leetown
Description 7 p.
First page 214
Last page 220