Differences in patch use behavior between an urban and rural species: Effects of distance from shelter and wing molt-gaps

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


It has been suggested that urban bird populations and communities are controlled by bottom-up mechanisms because predation costs are lower in urban than in non-urban habitats. We hypothesized that urban birds are less sensitive to variations in the cost of predation than non-urban birds. We predicted that the house sparrow, a widespread urban species, is less sensitive to variations in predation risk, while foraging, than its rural (less urban) congener, the Spanish sparrow. We quantified foraging behavior of these species, as affected by the proximity to shelter, in large outdoor aviaries. We then clipped feathers from the birds' wings to manipulate escape ability and increase predation risk. We predicted that birds experience increasing predation risk with increasing distance from shelter, and that reduced wing surface increases the birds' sensitivity to risk of predation with respect to distance from shelter. Both species displayed increasing giving-up densities in seed trays with increasing distance from shelter, indicating that foraging costs increase with distance from shelter. As predicted, the two species differed in their response to proximity of shelter: we concluded that house sparrows experienced a less pronounced increase in perceived predation cost with increasing distance from shelter than did Spanish sparrows. Contrary to our prediction, wing surface reduction had no effect on seed tray utilization. Therefore, it appears that, when feeding in patches at distances from shelter, as used in the present study, the cost of predation affects foraging and micro-habitat use in Spanish sparrows more than in house sparrows.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)345-357
Number of pages13
JournalIsrael Journal of Ecology and Evolution
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2009


  • Sparrows
  • cost of predation
  • giving up density
  • optimal foraging
  • patch use
  • seed trays
  • wing molt

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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