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Degree of synchronization of tree sparrows in flocks under different predation risk

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When exposed to predators animals often benefit from synchronized movements and behaviour. In this study, we investigated the level of synchronization at arrivals at and departures from a feeding platform in flock-feeding tree sparrows (Passer montanus) under two different conditions; near to a protective cover or far from it. Sparrow flocks spent 43% less time in a feeding bout, and waited 30% more between bouts, far from the cover than near to it. The relationship of vigilance and flock size was different between the two conditions; the proportion of time allocated to vigilance increased more with decreasing flock size when far from the cover than when near to it. These results suggest that sparrows perceived higher predation risk when fed farther away from the protective cover. Furthermore, we found that far from the cover arrivals of sparrows were 79% more synchronized than when close to the cover. Finally, we did not find significant difference between the two feeding conditions in the synchronization at the departure. Possibly, due to its escape function, departures may be as synchronized as possible, even when feeding near to the protective cover.

Affiliations: 1: Behavioural Ecology Research Group, Department of Evolutionary Zoology, University of Debrecen, Egyetem tér 1, H-4032 Debrecen, Hungary;, Email:; 2: Behavioural Ecology Research Group, Department of Evolutionary Zoology, University of Debrecen, Egyetem tér 1, H-4032 Debrecen, Hungary


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