A test on within-individual changes in risk-taking behaviour due to experience to predation in the Collared Flycatcher (Ficedula albicollis)

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Different experiences from the past may have influence on individual’s behaviour through feedback mechanisms that can weaken or preserve the within-individual consistency of behavioural traits. Here, we aimed to find evidence for such feedback mechanisms that may operate on risk-taking behaviour via the effect of former experience to potential predation events in male Collared Flycatchers (Ficedula albicollis). We predicted that risk-taking of males would decrease after experiencing a predator’s attack in previous breeding seasons (negative feedback). We assessed risk-taking by flight initiation distance (FID) that is the distance at which an individual flees from an approaching predator, which was estimated for 234 individuals from different breeding seasons. Information on predation experience (i.e. occurrence of nest predation, the incidence of capture by human observers) was available from our long-term database on individual life histories. In a horizontal approach, we found no difference in FID when comparing males with former experience to predation with males naive to predators. A longitudinal approach relying on the repeated tests of the same individuals from different years yielded analogous results, we could not show a significant change in the risk-taking behaviour of the males as a consequence of experience to predation in past years. However, we found that individuals systematically took less risk over the years, which might be a consequence of acquiring general experience with age.

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