Hummingbirds choose not to rely on good taste: information use during foraging

Ida Bacon, T. Andrew Hurly, Susan D. Healy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

To increase their chances of survival and reproduction, animals must detect changes in food quality and then decide if, and how quickly, to adjust their behavior. How quickly an animal responds to change will depend on the information available (cognitive, sensory, or physiological) and how it weights those types of information. Surrogate measures of meal size suggest that sensory information is used to make initial choices about how much to eat following changes in resource quality, choices are subsequently altered and refined as further information becomes available. Using direct measures, we investigated the amount of food consumed, the time taken to feed, and the interbout intervals between visits to a feeder of rufous hummingbirds, before and after changes in sucrose concentration. The hummingbirds did not change how much they drank at first experience of a new concentration but then rapidly adjusted meal sizes toward optimal for that concentration over a few feeding visits. Thus, it seems the hummingbirds used both cognitive and physiological information to decide how much to drink but appeared to ignore sensory information, such as taste. The early responses animals make to changed resources enable us to determine the types of information on which they rely most in their decision making.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)471-477
Number of pages7
JournalBehavioral Ecology
Issue number3
Early online date24 Feb 2011
Publication statusPublished - 31 May 2011


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