Effect of experimentally altered food abundance on fat reserves of wintering birds
Rogers, Christopher M.
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Rogers, C. M. and Heath-Coss, R. (2003), Effect of experimentally altered food abundance on fat reserves of wintering birds. Journal of Animal Ecology, 72: 822-830. doi:10.1046/j.1365-2656.2003.00754.x
1. Current models of adaptive fat regulation make opposing predictions concerning the effect of increased winter food supply on size of the avian winter fat reserve. To distinguish between models, food supply was varied experimentally in nature and two measures of size of the fat reserve were taken at food-supplemented sites and non-supplemented sites. 2. In two winters, most of the seven species sampled showed slightly higher visible subcutaneous fat class at supplemented than at non-supplemented sites; treatment and species factors were statistically significant. Body mass corrected for wing length showed a similar if non-significant trend. 3. A parallel dispersal study of birds colour-banded at non-supplemented sites showed that these birds did not move 0.8 or 1.5 km to use supplemental food at private feeding stations in the study areas. In addition, accipiter hawk attack rate did not differ between supplemented and non-supplemented sites. 4. These results are consistent with a model of adaptive fat regulation (based on between-day environmental variability caused by severe weather events) that predicts an increase in the winter fat reserve at increased food supply. Other published studies, all from the north temperate zone, showed the same pattern. 5. The present results are inconsistent with a second model (based on within-day foraging interruption) which predicts a decrease in the fat reserve under increased food supply. However, a set of published studies, all from tropical regions or regions with mild maritime climate, showed the decrease at higher food predicted by the second but not the first model. 6. Models of adaptive fat regulation in small birds are therefore limited in their predictive power, perhaps because they are developed for environments that differ in the time scale of environmental stochasticity. New studies are needed that explore further the complexities of environment-specific adaptive fat models, e.g. a winter feeding experiment in a tropical bird species.
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