Effect of Group Size on Individual and Collective Vigilance in Greater Rheas

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We studied the effect of group size on the proportion of time that greater rheas, Rhea americana, allocated to vigilance and feeding during the non-breeding season. We tested whether: (1) the proportion of time that one bird allocates to vigilance (individual vigilance) decreases with group size, and (2) the proportion of time that at least one bird of the group is vigilant (collective vigilance) increases with group size. We analyzed video-recordings of birds that were foraging alone or in groups from two to 12 birds. The proportion of time allocated to individual vigilance decreased and the proportion of time spent feeding increased with group size. In both cases the main significant difference was between birds foraging alone and in groups. Collective vigilance did not vary with group size and it was lower than expected if vigilance bouts were random or sequential. Our results indicate that rheas foraging in large groups would not receive the benefit of an increase in collective vigilance, although they could still benefit from a reduction of predation risk by the dilution effect.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1046/j.1439-0310.2003.00887.x

Affiliations: 1: Laboratorio de Ecología, Programa de Ecología Matemática, Universidad Nacional de Luján, Provincia de Buenos Aires, Argentina 2: Departamento de Ecología, Genética y Evolución, Facultad de Ciencias Exactas y Naturales, Universidad de Buenos Aires, Pabellón II Ciudad Universitaria, Buenos Aires, Argentina;

Publication date: May 1, 2003

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