Behaviour 2019
Does Information Sampling in a Changing Environment Predict Annual Survival in Black-capped Chickadees?
Elène Haave-Audet, Kimberley J. Mathot. Department of Biological Sciences, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

Theory predicts that differences in the way that individuals manage uncertainty could have important fitness consequences, particularly under challenging ecological conditions. One strategy for managing uncertainty is gathering information about potential resources through sampling. We studied sampling behaviour in a northern population of black-capped chickadees (Poecile atricapillus) that experience challenging winter conditions: short days combined with extreme low temperatures and low food availability. By experimentally manipulating food availability at bird feeders (full versus empty) that recorded individual visits, we measured individuals’ propensity to return to feeders that were empty the last time the individual visited—a metric of sampling. We 1) quantified the extent of among-individual differences in sampling, and 2) tested whether these differences in sampling were associated with differences in annual survival. In our population of 130 individually marked birds, we found support for repeatable among-individual differences in sampling. Survival is still being monitored, but we will report the results for a one-year survival follow-up.