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Neophobia In Common Feeder Birds of a Southeastern Suburb

Mark T. Stanback1,* and T. Howell Burke1,2

1Department of Biology, Davidson College, Davidson, NC 28035. 2Tufts University School of Medicine, Boston, MA 02111. *Corresponding author.

Southeastern Naturalist, Volume 19, Issue 2 (2020): 333–338

Novel items can represent either danger or exploitable new resources, so one might expect to find less neophobia in bird species that are acclimated to human-altered environments. We used 2 different experimental protocols at bird feeders on a college campus in North Carolina during winter to measure the aversion of common feeder birds to a novel object. In our simultaneous treatment, we compared the visitation rate of birds to adjacent feeders in which 1 of the feeders displayed an orange life jacket. In our sequential treatment, we recorded the visitation rate of birds at single feeders that either did or did not display an orange life jacket. Melanerpes carolinus (Red-bellied Woodpecker), Poecile carolinensis (Carolina Chickadee), Sitta carolinensis (White-breasted Nuthatch), Zonotrichia albicollis (White-throated Sparrow), Junco hyemalis (Dark-eyed Junco), Cardinalis cardinalis (Northern Cardinal), and Haemorhous mexicanus (House Finch) all showed significant aversion to the life jacket in both experiments. Baelophus bicolor (Tufted Titmouse) exhibited a significant neophobia response in the simultaneous treatment, but not in the sequential treatment. Thryothorus ludovicianus (Carolina Wren) exhibited no neophobic (or neophilic) response in either experiment. This lack of fear of human objects may help explain the success of this species in suburbia.

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