Traplining in hummingbirds: flying short-distance sequences among several locations

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Abstract

As for other pollinators, hummingbirds have been classified as trapliners, that is, foragers that repeat the order in which they will revisit several locations. Although the study of hummingbird foraging behavior is extensive, there has been no direct evidence for the repeatability of hummingbird traplines. Here, we show that male territorial rufous hummingbirds repeated the order in which they visited artificial flowers in an array, which we increased one by one from 2 to 5 flowers. Despite the large number of possible routes that the birds could have flown around the flower arrays, the birds flew only a very small subset of routes and those routes were most often the shortest distance routes around the flowers. To our knowledge, this is the first quantitative evidence that hummingbirds do develop traplines when foraging.

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