Toggle Main Menu Toggle Search

Open Access padlockePrints

Contrafreeloading in starlings: Testing the information hypothesis

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Melissa BatesonORCiD


Full text for this publication is not currently held within this repository. Alternative links are provided below where available.


Contrafreeloading (CFL) behaviour, in which animals forage persistently in patches that require effort to exploit when patches containing nd lib. food are easily available, seems to contradict the predictions of optimal foraging theory. However, it has been proposed that contrafreeloaders are in fact exploiting a hidden resource, namely information about parches that may be useful in future foraging attempts. We performed two experiments on starlings Sturnus vulgaris to test this hypothesis by determining the circumstances in which CFL occurs and assessing whether any useful information is acquired by animals performing the behaviour. In accordance with previous results we found that CFL is reduced when foragers are previously deprived of food and also when there are means of gathering information aside from sampling (namely when patches that require effort to exploit can be visually inspected). We also found that useful information is acquired by birds that perform CFL, in that when subsequently rested in extinction with the best patch removed they reliably chose the patch that had been the second best. These results are consistent with the information gain hypothesis. However, birds with low levels of CFL did not perform discernably worse in this test of patch knowledge and experimental reductions in CFL achieved through deprivation treatments did not produce apparent reductions in useful information possessed.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Bean D, Mason GJ, Bateson M

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Behaviour

Year: 1999

Volume: 136

Issue: 10

Pages: 1267-1282

Print publication date: 01/12/1999

ISSN (print): 0005-7959

ISSN (electronic): 1568-539X

Publisher: Brill


DOI: 10.1163/156853999500712


Altmetrics provided by Altmetric