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American Naturalist






University of Chicago Press

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Prey selection was assessed based on 116 experimental trials in which six kestrels were presented pairs of mice. Independent variables included pelage color (black and white), morphology (familiar and unfamiliar), and movement (aberrant, normal, and none). Each prey item represented a combination of three treatments, i.e., one per variable. In general, black pelage was preferred to white and familiar morphology was preferred to unfamiliar. An important interaction occurred between movement and morphology. Kestrel selection was low for moving unfamiliar prey but high for nonmoving unfamiliar prey. The highest rates of attack were elicited by moving familiar prey. It was concluded that movement renders unfamiliar stimuli less acceptable to kestrels while rendering familiar stimuli more acceptable. The acceptability of familiar stimuli was enhanced the greatest when accompanied by aberrant movement. A summary of kestrel selection preferences with regard to these variables was presented as a prey selection model. When the influence of learning (differential experimental experience) was partially omitted from this independent data set, model accountability increased to 85%. Learning was therefore implicated as an important factor in this kind of experimental research. Experimental observations were discussed in terms of novelty, and semantic implications of novelty and oddity were considered. The transition of a stimulus from novel to familiar was discussed as a function of learning via experience on the part of the predator.

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