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Water bathing alters threat perception in starlings

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Ben Brilot, Professor Melissa BatesonORCiD


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The majority of bird taxa perform water bathing, but little is known about the adaptive value of this behaviour. If bathing is important for feather maintenance then birds that have not bathed should have poorer feather condition, compromised escape ability and therefore increased responsiveness to cues of predation. We conducted two experiments examining the behaviour of captive starlings responding to conspecific alarm calls. Birds that had no access to bathing water showed a decreased willingness to feed and increased their vigilance behaviour following an alarm call. We argue that birds denied access to bathing water interpreted an ambiguous cue of threat as requiring more caution than birds that had access, consistent with higher levels of anxiety. Our results support the provision of bathing water for captive birds as an important welfare measure.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Brilot BO, Bateson M

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Biology Letters

Year: 2012

Volume: 8

Issue: 3

Pages: 379-381

Print publication date: 23/06/2012

ISSN (print): 1744-9561

ISSN (electronic): 1744-957X

Publisher: The Royal Society Publishing


DOI: 10.1098/rsbl.2011.1200


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Funder referenceFunder name
BB/E012000/1Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council