There are a lot of studies about relationships between prey and predators. However most have focused on the influence of lethal predators on their prey. We suggested that non-lethal effects may also be very important for a complete understanding of prey-predator interactions. Among many influencing factors predation is important because it affects survival probability, especially in winter, which is a critical period for many passerines living in temperate zones. Apart from killing prey, predators may also have an indirect influence on the choice of nocturnal resting sites. Therefore, small passerines should detect and avoid places where a predator has operated previously. We tested this prediction using data on wintering small passerines, mainly on Great Tits. The study was performed during the winter season of 2005/2006 in western Poland. In the experiment, we put fur and mangled feathers in half of 100 randomly selected nest boxes. Boxes were checked every ten days, from January-March. The birds showed a significantly stronger preference towards “clean” nest boxes (without predator traces). It seems that non-lethal predator influence modifies winter dispersion of birds and wintering passerines may detect, by visual signals left behind, nest boxes where predation has previously occurred.
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