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Center for Biodiversity Conservation Behavioural Ecology

The environmental predation risk: The Effect of Domestic Cat (Felis catus)
on foraging behaviour of Tree Sparrow (Passer montanus)
Mr. Sophany Phauk
Center for Conservation Biodiversity
Faculty of Science
Royal University of Phnom Penh

Abstract: Predation risk has been affected to the population of prey and ecosystems. There are many previous
experiments that test on this anti-predator interaction. Recent evidence has revealed some hypothesis that the predation
risk have affected to increase or decrease the foraging behaviour of the prey. In the experiment of the study, 15 male tree
sparrow birds (Passer montanus) and a domestic cat (Felis catus) are represented to be tested. We conducted two
experiments (control and treatment experiment) within the same condition. For the treatment experiment, we used
domestic cat to comparing with the first experiment. The results of the study showed a significant different P value > 0.05.
14 birds showed the increasing the spending time during the experiments. However, However, one bird showed a
difference in deceasing the spending time.

Introduction Increasing the variance of gain or the chance of foraging being

interrupted should lead to an increase in optimal reserve levels.
The study of the environmental predation risk of various animals This has been demonstrated in experimentally in various species
belongs to the important biological science tasks of our day. The (Ekman & Hake 1990; Bednekoff & Krebs 1995; Witter et al.
principal aim is to obtain knowledge about animal behaviour and 1994; Witter & Swaddle 1997; Cuthill et al. 2000). Predation risk
its role in the ecosystem as far as the exchange of matter and has been argued to be one of the key ecological factors
energy is concerned. All behaviour takes time and consumes determining the body mass of birds (McNamara & Houston
energy. Predation pressure is important selective force in many 1990; Houston et al. 1993; Roger & Smith 1993).
animal populations and natural ecosystems (Marc & Carolee
1994; Ricardo et al. 2002). Logic and mathematical theory Birds have long been among the favored research subjects of
suggest that when prey are numerous their predators increase ecologists and evolutionary biologists (Weatherhead & Blouin-
in numbers, reducing the prey population, which in turn causes Demers 2004). One of those researches, Tree Sparrow (Passer
predator number to decline. The prey population eventually montanus) birds have been extremely studied in the respect
recovers, starting a new cycle. (Purves et al. unpubl). In response (Sean et al. 2001); among of the numerous studies have been
to such pressure, prey species have evolved diver sensory contributed and published on the species of Passer. A number of
mechanisms and behavioural responses in increase the studies are consistent with the hypothesis that limited attention
probability survival (Endler 1991). The strength of interactions constrains forager performance. Some of these studies
between predators and their prey (interaction strength) varies documented a change in foraging behaviour after exposure to
enormously among species within ecological communities (Enric model predator (Metcalfe et al. 1987; Reuven & Alan, 2000).
& Micheal 2001). For example, the investigation the effects of Such a change could be caused by reduced attention to food
perceived predation risk by manipulation the amount of when more attention was devoted to predator avoidance.
protective cover available to starlings were reduced their body Predator–prey interactions are commonly viewed as
mass (Witter et al. 1994). It meant that the predator decreased evolutionary arm races. Although there have been many studies
their foraging behaviour. Furthermore, rapid reversible documenting how animals respond to predators (Cheney &
environmental changes are responsible for the evolution of Seyfarth 1990; Endler 1991; Marler et al. 1992; Hauser 1996;
flexible physiology and rapid physiological responses (Piersma & Blumstein et al. 2000), relatively few studies reveal both how
Lindstrom, 1997). The energetic environment is also important predators hunt prey and how prey acquire an alarm response to
in determining the optimal levels of reserves that birds carry. a novel or newly introduced predator (Berger et al. 2001;

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Center for Biodiversity Conservation Behavioural Ecology

Ricardo et al. 2002). One example of the previous experiment their tune to get experiment for 150 times (10 time for each
(Sean et al. 2001) in blue tit (Parus caeruleus), the optimal with count time in second). The time will stop when they assess
amount of reserves that a small bird should carry depends upon the food (the seed). Second, the treatment experiment, the
a number of factors, including the availability of food and processes are repeated from the previous once but difference by
environmental predation risk levels. Theory predicts that, if putting a domestic in the experiment. In order to prevent of
predation risk increases, then a bird should maintain a lower loosing sample, I have to separate two cages between bird cage
level of reserves. Previous experiments have given mixed results: and Felis catus cage. Significantly, both experiments were done
some have shown reduced reserves and some, increased at the same condition and starting from the 8 a.m. to the end of
reserves (McNamara et al. 1994). each experiment. Experiments were involving cageling or
tethering procedure can be individually identified and monitored
To indentify the ability of adaptive anti-predator behaveiour, 15 through time (Barbeau & Scheibling 1994).
male tree sparrows (Passer montanus) and a domestic cat (Felis
catus) have been subjected for the study. We simulated such a To gathering the data, I had to stay and hide away from the cage
foraging scenario under controlled laboratory conditions to experiments.
quantify the importance of limited attention. Bearing in this
mind, the purpose of research experiment is to find out if the Statistical Analysis
presence of predator (domestic cat Felis catus) would have any
effect on the foraging behavious of tree sparrow Passer We do used non-parametric statistics due to the sample size is
montanus. In addition to investigate whether tree sparrows small to reliably represent a normal distribution. I calculated the
compensate for increased or decreased, we hypothesized that amount of time and frequency that each bird spent on the
the presence of Felis catus generates two predictions: (1) control experiment (no cat) and treatment experiment (within
increase or (2) decrease the time of their foraging food. cat). To analysis the significant statistic result, we used the
Wilconson – Mann/Whitney Test statistic method because data
were dependent sample two tail test. It was used to compare
Materials and Methods between first experiment and repeated experiment of the
significant mean of time and frequency of male birds which they
Fifteen male tree sparrow birds were used in the study. Only
respond to the predator (cat) was placed in the treatment
adult males were chosen because we wanted to eliminate the
experiment. Because each bird was subjected to all the
sex variable during the experiments. Moreover, in the previous
experimental manipulations, the level of significant were set at
study they particularly suited to such an investigation as they do
P<0.05 and we conducted a subprogram of excel (Magastat.xla)
in feeding territories (Simon, 2000) and because of male sparrow
for analyzing the statistic method above.
birds showed greater variance in condition-dependent
reproductive success that females (Pedro et al. 2000). Birds were
bought from the seller in front of the Royal Palace, Phnom Penh. Results
For the predator Domestic Cat (Felis catus) were providing from
the neighbor near my home. The experiments were taken place At the beginning of the experiments, we could well analyze the
(in my home) in a quite room (5m x 3m x 2.5m). There were two cognitive mechanisms of tree sparrow behaviour. Furthermore,
experiments in the study, first is the control experiment, and because finding food is something many animals do repeatedly
second is the treatment experiment. play an important role in foraging (Sara, 2000). In the control
experiment (Figure 1), Birds seem to show up their learning
Before the experiments, all birds were put in the same cage behaviour in finding food due to the graph of control
(45cm x 30cm x 45cm) due to they are usually live in a society experiment. However, in this experiment we found that the bird
group (Torda et al. 2004) and they were not given a food for a number 7 (B7) spent a long time (720 seconds) in finding food in
haft day before experiment. I putted the same breeding (food) contrast with the bird number 5 (B5) just spent only (243
seconds) a short time in the first time experiment. Moreover, we
of rice seed with water in separate container as the seller usually
can assume that all bird learned very fast to recognize the food
bred them. All birds were given a tab number individually from
in ten time experiments (see figure 1), where the total mean
B1 to B15. The cage of bird experiment is 40cm x 30cm x 40cm in
decreased from 1st time experiment (M = 480.0667) to 10th
diameter. The adult Felis catus was took in a cage (30cm x 30cm
time experiment (M = 107.5333). With this notification, it was
x 30cm) during experiments
indicated that all birds learnt to recognize the food very well,
except the bird (B4) spent a total mean of time (total Mt = 344.9
The experiment was done on Saturday, January 31, 2009 and
seconds) compared to the bird (B5 - Mt = 142.7 seconds).
repeated for the treatment experiment on Wednesday, February
04, 2009. For the control experiment, each fifteen birds took

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Center for Biodiversity Conservation Behavioural Ecology

On the treatment experiment side (Figure 2), there is not much the food in a long time. We found that bird (B3) spent only Mt =
difference from the first experiment. However, there are some 238.4 seconds a total of mean time in the treatment experiment
notifications of the bird spending time in assessing the food. As compared to bird (B15), Mt = 390.1 seconds (the total mean that
showed in the (figure 1), all birds were using their time in finding highest in this experiment).

Control Experiment
700 B2
Time in Second

400 B7
300 B9

100 B12
0 B14
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 B15
Times Experiment

Figure 1: The control experiment of tree sparrow: the frequency experiment of individual bird in this
experiment showed that each time of experiments function with the time in second during the experiment.
In this experiment, all bird learnt to recognize the food very fast.

Treatment Experiment


600 B3
Time in Second

500 B5
400 B7
300 B9
200 B11
100 B13
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Times Experiment

Figure 2: The treatment experiment of tree sparrow (the repeat experiment): all birds seem to increase
spending time in finding food due to putting the predator (domestic cat) for interfering.

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The Comparison Between Control and Treatment


Time in Second


Mean of 15 Birds spend for each

test in Control Experiment

300 Mean of 15 Birds spend for each

test in Treatment Experiment


1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Times Experiment

Figure 3: The comparison between control and treatment experiments of tree sparrow. The comparison of
time experiment, showed that the mean of total, 15 birds spent their time by decreased from the 1st to
10th time of experiments. Moreover, this showed when the predator (cat) appeared; birds increased their
time in foraging a food. The comparison between two tests showed a significant different level with a (P
value > 0.05). It was indicated that most birds learnt to recognize to assessing the food.

The Comparison of Birds between Two

Experiments Mean of Time for Individual Bird in
Control Experiment
450 Mean of Time for Individual Bird in
Treatment Experiment


Time in Second






1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15
Bird's Number

Figure 4: The comparison between control and treatment experiments of tree sparrow. The comparison of
individual bird showed that 14 birds spent their time by increased in the treatment experiment. However,
bird (B4) showed a different vice versa from the other bird when the predator (cat) appeared; it decreased
their time foraging a food. These mean our prediction of hypothesis is significant true that presence of
predation risk increased and also decreased the time of foraging behaviour of birds. There is no significant
different comparison between two tests in the comparison in showed in Figure 3 which a significant
different level is (P value > 0.05).

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