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If you previously purchased this article, Log in to Readcube. Log out of Readcube. Click on an option below to access. Log out of ReadCube. Selective feeding by Vespa orientalis was subsequently used as a method of assessing the relative edibility of the flesh of 38 species of birds in terms of hornet preference.

During the period —, hornet experiments were carried out in Egypt and the Lebanon: in each experiment the insects were presented with a choice as between the flesh of two species of birds, or in control tests of the same species.

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The two food elements offered in each experiment were approximately similar in bulk and anatomical content, but the quantity and quality were varied from one experiment to another throughout the series. The number of insects feeding at each carcase was counted at regular intervals of usually five minutes, until one food element had been exhausted, preference for one bird of the pair being established by a differential rate of attack, based on the total number of hornets counted at each food element. Experimental data are tabulated to show: a the total number of hornets counted at each test; b the ratio of attack at the two food elements; c standard error; d observed deviation.

The consistency of hornet discrimination and reliability of the experimental method was checked by linking and overlapping experiments between pairs of species more or less widely separated in the edibility series ;and by repetition and control experiments between similar pairs, or the same species.

In general, the experimental data show the hornets to be highly sensitive to differences in the relative palatability of the birds offered. Arranged in order of acceptability, they fall into the following groups:—. Palatable: Wryneck Jynx t. Unpalatable: Blackcap Sylvia a.

Consideration of the species investigated from the point of view a of their relative edibility to the hornets, and b of their relative visibility in the field, demonstrates a general inverse correlation between conspicuousness of the plumage and palatability of the flesh. When classified according to greater or less degree of conspicuousness and edibility respectively, the species fall into four groups as follows: 1 inconspicuous and palatable, 18; 2 conspicuous and unpalatable, 14; 3 inconspicuous and unpalatable, 2; 4 conspicuous and palatable, 4.

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When arranged in order of acceptability, it is found that the species rated as most palatable include those with the most effective cryptic coloration and habits—such as J. Conversely, those of lowest grade edibility are, without exception, species rendered highly conspicuous in the field by their habits and coloration;and the most conspicuous entirely black and white members of the series— C.

This inverse correlation between visibility status and edibility status appears to hold even within the limits of certain families and genera. For example, members of the families Fringillidae and Ploceidae, taken together, occur in the following order of ascending conspicuousness and descending palatability:— C. Again, M. A similar correlation is found with members of the order Coraciiformes sensu latu , which occur, with one slight deviation, in the following order of increasing conspicuousness and distastefulness:— J.

On the other hand, no such close correlation has been traced for shrikes of the genus Lanius , or for six species of Turdidae tested. Two outstanding exceptions to the general correlation between conspicuousness and distastefulness are provided by A. The distribution of different plumage colours, occurring both as predominant and subordinate elements in the coloration of the birds investigated, has been considered in relation to edibility status.

Comparison of the available data shows a general agreement in the food preferences of the cat and hornet.

In the 15 experiments, where similar pairs of birds were offered to both types of predator, discrimination in favour of the corresponding species was recorded on every occasion except one. Cats agreed with the hornets in rating more conspicuous species, such as C.


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  • Further evidence suggests that Titmice Parus major, P. Information has been collected on the relative edibility, to man, of the birds or of allied species used in the hornet experiments. The available evidence again suggests a general agreement between the food preferences of hornet and man. For many genera, of whatever edibility grading, the agreement is very close, as in Jynx, Galerida, Chloris, Merops, Streptopelia.

    For other genera, more or less divergence is shown, as in Erythropygia, Emberiza, Phoenicurus, Hirundo, Lanius, Parus , and Upupa —apparently rated somewhat higher by man than by the hornet; and in Ardeola and Pycnonotus —higher by the hornet than by man. In only four genera, Motacilla, Sylvia, Oriolus and Alcedo , is a marked discrepancy indicated. The species used in the hornet experiments have been graded in terms of relative vulnerability to predaceous attack, the assessment being based upon; a size; b weapons of defence; c powers of offence; d habitat; e habits; f sociability. The relation between vulnerability and visibility is discussed.

    The inverse correlation between visibility and edibility applies essentially to the more vulnerable species;but not to those less liable to attack. The more vulnerable birds include both cryptic and phanerie types: the former are typically palatable; of the latter, all the more highly conspicuous species are also highly distasteful; the remainder are intermediate in both respects.

    The less vulnerable birds include both palatable and unpalatable species: all these are highly conspicuous, with the exception of Athene, noctua , where alone the value of conspicuousness is likely to be outweighed by the need for concealment.

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    The investigation has been extended, in terms of the palatability of the flesh to man, over a wide range of birds outside the limited series used in the hornet experiments. The evidence suggests that the correlation between vulnerability, palatability and visibility found within the experimental series applies in general to birds as a class.

    Birds, of many diverse orders, which are relatively vulnerable and which are also highly prized for the table, are in general cryptically coloured in both sexes or in the female : for example, various species of Ciconiiformes— Botaurus : Anseriformes— Anas, Aythya ; Galliformes— Francolinus, Lagopus, Bonasa. Further, many species, of whatever order, having the most specialized and effective cryptic coloration are also those which are especially prized for the excellence of their flesh, for example: Anas platyrhyncha, A.

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    Again, within certain natural groups of birds, the general correlation between edibility and visibility obtains. Thus, among the Ralliformes, Crex crex, Rallus longirostris and Porzana Carolina are highly palatable and cryptic in coloration and habits;while Fulica atra and Gallinula chloropus , though eatable, are hardly accountable as table birds. Similarly, among the Ciconiiformes, both Botaurus lentiginosus and B.

    Among plovers, similar relations are found in the series Pluvialis apricaria, Squatarola squatarola, Vanellus vanellus, Lobivanellus indicus, Pluvianus aegyptius. The factors causing distastefulness in birds are discussed. On the other hand, several other factors appear to play a part in determining distastefulness. Palatability may change with growth and age of the bird;and it differs markedly in different parts of the same individual.

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