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Behavioral Responses to Urban Environments of Food-caching Mountain Chickadees
Weissgerber, Emily 2016 Behavioral Responses to Urban Environments of Food-caching Mountain Chickadees.pdf
AuthorWeissgerber, Emily A.
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As anthropogenic centers continue to expand, it becomes increasingly important to understand the traits associated with successful urban invading species. Previous research has focused on exploratory behavior, neophobia, and problem solving abilities as traits that are associated with urban invaders. Here, I focused on the mountain chickadee, Poecile gambeli, a resident species that relies on cached food to survive the winter. Chickadees have populated the Reno, NV area from surrounding forest populations and therefore provide an opportunity to study what traits are associated with a specialized caching species successfully inhabiting urban environments. I compared forest and urban chickadees in exploratory behavior, neophobia in a feeding context, problem solving ability, food-caching rates, short-term spatial memory and long-term spatial memory. Urban chickadees explored more substrates in a novel environment and were more active overall than forest birds. Response to novelty was similar between urban and forest chickadees, while urban chickadees solved a novel problem faster than their forest counterparts. Urban and forest chickadees cached similar amounts, performed similarly on a one-trial associative spatial learning task and on a repeated trials associative spatial learning task, but urban chickadees were able to recall cache locations better after a long term retention interval pointing toward better memory retention. These results suggest that there are differences that may be associated with urban and forest populations of chickadees, though it remains unclear what suite of traits makes an ideal invader and whether these traits are adaptive for life in urban conditions.