In many birds, breeding males display bright colors, sing, and engage in active territory defense; whereas females are less conspicuous. Therefore, it is sometimes assumed that in the breeding season males suffer higher predation than females. Several studies have reported, however, higher female predation rates, which suggests that traits other than coloration and mate-acquisition behaviors are important in determining predation rates for the sexes. Theoretical and empirical work suggests that foraging behavior and foraging rate are major determinants of predation risk. Here, we examine this possibility in a study of breeding Eurasian Blackbirds (Turdus merula) and predation on them by Eurasian Sparrowhawks (Accipiter nisus). Female Eurasian Blackbirds foraged more than males and foraged closer to the ground, both early and late in the breeding season. On the basis of this observation, we predicted that females should suffer higher predation than males. Of 98 Eurasian Blackbirds taken in 33 Eurasian Sparrowhawk territories during four years, 56 were females and 42 males. On the basis of the male-biased sex ratio in the population, female Eurasian Blackbirds suffered higher predation risk than males. For breeding birds, these results indicate a trade-off between foraging effort and predation rate, which is of importance for sexual dichromatism (selection for female crypsis), population sex ratio, and behaviors of the sexes.
Le Comportement de Quête Alimentaire et les Risques de Prédation chez Turdus merula au Cours de la Saison de Reproduction