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A Study of Prey-Attack Behaviour in Young Loggerhead Shrikes, Lanius Ludovicianus L

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i) Prey-attack behaviour by young Loggerhead Shrikes was studied in both wild and hand-reared birds. 2) Field work was done in central Washington state. 3) There did not appear to be any attempt by the parents to demonstrate prey-attack to either nestlings of fledglings. The young normally did not observe adults either killing or manipulating food until they were past the age at which they could kill for themselves. 4) The development of prey-attack behaviour in hand-reared shrikes takes approximately 37 days; prior experience with small food can hasten the appearance of this behaviour by up to 10 days. 5) Experience of any kind is unnecessary; the entire behaviour, which involves directing pecks to the back of the neck of large prey, is displayed by any shrike 40 days old or older. 6) A series of 12 generalized models was used to attempt to find out what cues are used by Loggerhead Shrikes to direct their attack at a novel potential prey item. 7) The shrikes responded significantly to each cue tested. 8) Motion was by far the most powerfully directing of the cues given. 9) There is evidence to suggest that the response to the other cues may have been due entirely or in part to curiosity. 10) Experience with live mice does not affect subsequent model attack behaviour. 11) Experiments with stuffed mice show that there are other cues not tested in the model experiments to which the shrikes are capable of responding, and which enable the birds to attack the neck of a still mouse. 12) These cues are only effective when the stuffed mouse is in an upright (normal) position; the same mouse on its side evokes a very different response. 13) These factors are apparently not present in stuffed birds. 14) Therefore, in addition to a generalized response to vertebrates, in which motion is very important, the shrikes may possess an innate recognition of ,, mouse". Since mice are best equipped to harm shrikes if the initial attack fails, such an innate recognition would seem to be highly adaptive.

Affiliations: 1: University of Washington, Seattle, Washington, U.S.A.


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