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Urban and rural chickadee response to novel object and simulated predator

Cite this dataset

Reudink, Matthew (2024). Urban and rural chickadee response to novel object and simulated predator [Dataset]. Dryad.


Urbanization is changing natural landscapes worldwide, pushing species to quickly acclimate or adapt if they are to survive in urban environments. Mountain chickadees (Poecile gambeli) readily nest in both urban and rural environments without suffering apparent reproductive costs. However, whether urban-nesting chickadees are successful in these environments due to differences in behaviour between urban and rural birds remains untested. We examined the behavioural responses of urban and rural nesting mountain chickadee females when presented with a novel object (red plastic cup) or simulated predator (imitation squirrel model) at the nest. Behavioural responses depended on both the type of model and the habitat. As expected, mountain chickadees responded more strongly to squirrel models than novel objects; however, the magnitude of the difference in response depended on habitat. Urban birds seemingly ignored the novel object, spending little time investigating, and re-entering the nest box quickly. In contrast, rural birds spent more time reacting to the novel object and alarm calling within 5 m of the nest. When presented with a predator model, the urban birds reacted relatively more strongly (compared to the novel stimulus) than rural birds, spending more time within 5 m of the nest and alarm calling. These results suggest that either mountain chickadees in urban environments quickly acclimatize to the presence of novel objects or, potentially, that less neophobic birds disproportionately settle in urban environments or experience positive selection in urban areas. Either way, reduced neophobia may aid in mountain chickadees’ ability to readily and successfully nest in such habitats.

README: Urban and rural chickadee response to novel object and simulated predator

Dataset includes one .csv file with behavioural data on the responses of urban and rural mountain chickadees to presentations of novel objects (red plastic cups) and simulated predators (squirrel decoy). All trials lasted 180s. 

Description of the data and file structure

Single .csv file with the following information:

Box_ID:  identification number of the nest box at which the experiment was conducted 
Rural_Urban: Rural indicates the nest box was located in rural habitat; urban indicates the nest box was located in urban habitat. 
Trial: Indicates whether the object (novel, predator) was presented first or second. 
Novel_Squirrel: Type of object presented on the top of the nest box (Red Cup = novel object, Squirrel = simulated predator)
TS_less_5: Time spent within 5m of the nest box (sec)
TS_more_5: Time spent greater than 5m from the nest box (sec) 
alarm_call: Number of alarm calls given
TL_enter_nest: Latency (in sec) to enter the nest box. 
TS_in_nest: Time spent in the nest box (sec)


Data presented are behavioural responses of mountain chickadee females presented with novel ojects (red plastic cup) and simulated predators (squirrel decoy) at eight rural and six urban nests. Each female was presented with both objects atop the nest box on different days (trial order randomized). Behavioural observations lasted 180s. 


Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council