Abstract

Animal geography's focus on the shared “actant” behaviour of animals and people contributes an important reexamination of animal ecology, including possibilities of animal foraging “strategies” and codependent behaviour with people. This paper studies avian inter- and intraspecies competition for human-proffered food (HPF) using a case study of eight species of gulls, corvids, and pigeons in coastal towns of Sussex, United Kingdom. An integrated ecological and social survey also recorded unique and individual bird behaviours in relation to human feeding practices, human impacts on inter- and intraspecies conflicts, and avian presence. Human feeding strategies included species preferences (ducks and doves), individual bird targeting, and aggressive reactions to, and retreats from, bird aggression (herring and lesser black-backed gulls). Feeders' presence and behaviour increased avian presence in nonhabitat areas, dominance of larger species (especially herring gulls) over smaller species, conflicts between similarly sized species, intraspecies competition, and avian attacks on people. Unlike the gulls and corvids, doves and ducks sought refuge near people, and doves used superior agility to out-manoeuvre gulls. Birds exhibited anticipatory behaviour by occupying areas of frequent feeding during nonfeeding periods and approaching nonfeeding humans, in relation to posture, arm movements, and handling of baggage. These codependent, avian-human behaviours contribute a new look at urban avian ecology.

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