Behavioural responses during feather replacement in house sparrows

Miriam Ben-Hamo, Darren John Burns, Ulf Bauchinger, Shomen Mukherjee, Keren Embar, Berry Pinshow

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Birds lose feathers, whether during molt or by accident, and replace them by processes that are energetically demanding. We hypothesized that house sparrows Passer domesticus biblicus use behavioral means to save energy when feathers are lost, and tested the general prediction that house sparrows growing new feathers adjust their behavior to minimize the energy costs of foraging and to increase net energy gain from their food. To test these predictions we divided 18 house sparrows into three groups: 1) plucked - house sparrows from which we plucked 15 flight feathers; 2) cut - house sparrows in which the same 15 feathers were cut off at the calamus below the barbs; and 3) control - unmanipulated house sparrows with plumage intact. We recorded both the quantity of seeds the house sparrows ate and the time they spent foraging from assay food patches. We found that 'plucked' sparrows growing new feathers adjust their foraging behavior by reducing their feeding time and the number of visits to a food patch. This allowed them to increase their patch harvest rate while maintaining a steady body mass.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)103-108
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Avian Biology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Animal Science and Zoology


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