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Great tits eat bats in times of need
Date:9/25/2009

e from the human acoustic range to the ultra-sound range. The researchers proved that these sounds were within the audible range of the birds by playing a recording of the bat sounds to them. The birds responded by moving towards the loudspeaker with interest. "These sounds probably have a defensive purpose," says Bjorn Siemers, "and it would seem plausible that the birds use the sounds to locate the bats." The Great Tits needed at most 15 minutes from entry into the cave to capture a bat. In some cases, they carried the Pipistrelles out of the cave in their beaks and ate them on nearby trees.

This behaviour is strongly dependent on the available food supply, however. When the researchers placed an additional food source in the form of sunflower seeds and bacon fat a few metres away from the entrance to the cave, only one of the birds still went looking for a bat. "Behavioural flexibility coupled with altered environmental conditions, e.g. food scarcity, can trigger astonishing innovations in animal behaviour," concludes Siemers. This innovative behaviour is not an isolated case and is probably passed on from generation to generation. Pter Estk, the first author of the study, had already observed a Great Tit eating a bat in the same cave ten years ago. A similar observation was also reported in Poland. "This could support the idea of cultural learning between different populations or it could indicate an independent development in different locations with the same ecological conditions," notes Bjrn Siemers in conclusion.


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Contact: Dr. Bjrn M. Siemers
siemers@orn.mpg.de
49-815-793-2348
Max-Planck-Gesellschaft
Source:Eurekalert  

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