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Data from: Individual variation and seasonality drive bird feeder use during winter in a Mediterranean climate

Cite this dataset

Lajoie, Janel L.; Ganio, Lisa M.; Rivers, James W. (2019). Data from: Individual variation and seasonality drive bird feeder use during winter in a Mediterranean climate [Dataset]. Dryad.


Purposeful provisioning of food to wild animals is a widespread and growing activity that has the potential to impact populations and communities. Nevertheless, studies assessing use of recreational feeders by free-living birds during winter are surprisingly rare and largely limited to regions with continental climates characterized by freezing temperatures and snow cover. In contrast, there is little information available regarding bird use of feeders within warmer climates during winter, despite widespread recreational feeding in these areas. In this study we quantified visitation patterns to bird feeders in a Mediterranean climate to evaluate the relationship between feeder use and several environmental variables known to influence supplemental feeder use in continental climates. We established a network of bird feeders in Corvallis, Oregon, USA that were filled with black oil sunflower (Helianthus annuus) seeds and equipped with radio frequency identification (RFID) data loggers that recorded >315,000 visits by 70 individual Black-capped Chickadees (Poecile atricapillus) across a 5-month period (October 2016 – March 2017). We found extensive variation in feeder use, with individuals averaging 1 – 406 feeder visits/day and using 1 – 9 of the 21 feeders that were available; individual variability was largely consistent during the course of our study. At the population level, we found that feeder use decreased from the start of our study, and this decline continued through the period when foraging was most limited by daylight, including the winter solstice. In contrast to theoretical predictions and empirical work in continental climates, we found that weather variables did not drive feeder use and that feeder visits peaked at mid-day and gradually decreased until sunset. Our study indicates that individual-level differences combined with seasonality to drive feeder use patterns, and we conclude that how birds use supplemental feeders during winter in Mediterranean climates appears to differ notably from feeder use in continental climates.

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