American robin nestlings compete by jockeying for position

Susan B. McRae, Patrick J. Weatherhead, Robert Montgomerie

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We investigated whether nestling American robins (Turdus migratorius) were capable of influencing food distribution in their nests by perceiving that certain sectors of the nest received a relatively high proportion of feedings and positioning themselves accordingly. Feeding observations were obtained from videotape recordings taken at different stages of the nestling period. Parents generally arrived at a predictable location on the nest rim and allocated proportionally more food to nestlings in the central position. The degree of nestling movement was significantly positively correlated with variation in the predictability of parental arrival locations on the nest rim. Furthermore, nestlings moved more in broods suffering brood reduction. This suggests that when competition for food is intense and the location of parental arrival is predictable, nestlings respond by jockeying for access to the most favorable (i.e., central) position in the nest. We conclude that jockeying for position by nestlings can influence the pattern of food allocation by parents, and that hungry nestlings can improve their competitive standing against nestmates by moving to positions where parents are more likely to feed them.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)101-106
Number of pages6
JournalBehavioral Ecology and Sociobiology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 1993
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Animal Science and Zoology


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