The Ecology and Behavior of Chickadees and Titmice: An Integrated Approach.
Article Type: Book review
Subject: Books (Book reviews)
Author: Lindsay, Alec R.
Pub Date: 12/01/2009
Publication: Name: The Wilson Journal of Ornithology Publisher: Wilson Ornithological Society Audience: Academic Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Biological sciences Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2009 Wilson Ornithological Society ISSN: 1559-4491
Issue: Date: Dec, 2009 Source Volume: 121 Source Issue: 4
Topic: NamedWork: The Ecology and Behavior of Chickadees and Titmice: An Integrated Approach (Nonfiction work)
Persons: Reviewee: Otter, Ken A.
Accession Number: 216267563
Full Text: THE ECOLOGY AND BEHAVIOR OF CHICKADEES AND TITMICE: AN INTEGRATED APPROACH. Edited by Ken A. Otter. Oxford University Press, Oxford, UK. 2007: xxiv + 319 pages. ISBN: 978-0-19-856999-2. $110.00 (hardcover).--Everyone should care about chickadees and, at the very least, a varied and talented group of researchers do. This edited volume of 18 chapters focuses largely on North American chickadees and covers studies from a wide range of disciplines as diverse as neurobiology to thermoregulation to landscape ecology. This book should be of interest to biologists of many stripes: ornithologists, ethologists, ecologists, neurophysiologists, and evolutionary and conservation biologists. The chapters are well-written comprehensive syntheses of research published over the past several decades, and they hold together as well as or better than most taxon-specific multi-authored books. The book is divided into four sections, each of which is composed of 3-5 chapters and summarized by a sectional synopsis.

The first section of the book starts with three chapters focused on proximate causes of parid behavior, heavily emphasizing the neurological underpinnings of spatial memory, food caching, and photoperiodism. The section finishes with a chapter on fine-scale timing of reproduction, appropriately following the chapter on photoperiodism and annual cycles. If the terminology and general principles of neuroanatomy and endocrinology are unfamiliar to the reader, this section will likely be the most challenging in the book. It was perhaps with this in mind that some material is repeated between chapters in this section (e.g., characterizations of the avian hippocampus); the slight repetition does allow each chapter to stand alone more easily.

The second section of the book covers the ecology and evolution of reproductive behavior of chickadees. The section begins with a comprehensive chapter on the phylogeography of Chestnut-backed Chickadees (Poecile rufescens), which is followed by a chapter on the behavioral aspects of chickadee hybridization (focused on the Carolina/Black-capped [P. carolinensis/P, atricapilla] hybrid zone in Pennsylvania). These two chapters feature some of the more detailed genetic techniques in the book (the former chapter more than the latter), but presentations of the analyses are such that both chapters should be accessible to most readers. The chapter on hybridization has a heavy emphasis on the role of vocal behavior in reproductive isolation, which complements the chapters in the third section of the book concerned with vocal communication. The third chapter in this section on reproductive ecology considers the cavity-nesting behavior of chickadees (mostly Mountain [P. gambeli] and Black-capped) and examines nest site characteristics and interspecific interactions (facilitators, competitors, predators) of chickadee nests. This second section of the book closes with a chapter on social dominance and fitness in Black-capped Chickadees, summarizing the voluminous (and sometimes equivocal) work on establishment and maintenance of chickadee social hierarchy, the behavioral correlates of social rank and the correlation of social rank with reproductive success.

The book's third section covers aspects of vocal communication in chickadees, beginning with a useful introduction to vocal production and perception. This is followed by two chapters describing influences on the development of different vocalizations in the chickadee repertoire. The first is a chapter on the "gargle" call of Black-capped Chickadees which details the acoustic structure, development, function, and variation across populations in this complex call. The second vocal development chapter considers tests of hypotheses about the role of post-natal dispersal on song development in Black-capped Chickadees. Following these two chapters on vocal development is an interesting chapter that reviews both the early work of the Hailmans and the Fickens in the 1980s and 1990s, along with more recent research on the information content of the onomatopoetic "chick-a-dee" call. This section of the book closes with a chapter summarizing innovative work on communication networks and status signaling between male Black-capped Chickadees. This chapter may be of particular interest to readers unfamiliar with application of interactive playback techniques; the experimental techniques and analyses examining fitness outcomes (e.g., extra-pair offspring produced, frequency of cuckoldry) associated with variation in vocal behavior are particularly compelling.

Parids might not be an obvious choice for studies of conservation and landscape ecology, (as the editor notes in the introduction to the fourth section), but the chapters included in this section suggest otherwise. The first chapter examines Black-capped and Boreal (P. hudsonica) chickadee behavioral responses to environmental variation on multiple spatial scales, from local habitat patches to landscape-scale gaps and corridors. This is followed by a chapter which begins with a review of the behavioral and physiological responses by resident parids to cold conditions. This chapter continues by taking a broader view, making interesting connections between habitat fragmentation, wind and temperature microclimate variation, and the physiological underpinnings of overwintering survival in chickadees. This provides a transition to the final chapter in this section which examines habitat quality and reproductive behavior in forest generalists like chickadees and tits.

The final chapter of the book, a comparative analysis of North American and Eurasian parid studies, stands outside the other four sections. This chapter observes (as most parid researchers already know) that natural history traits differing between the most commonly encountered (and studied) species on separate landmasses create (and limit) the type of research questions that are reasonably investigated with parids on different continents. The Great (Parus major) and Blue (Cyanistes coeruleus) tits of Eurasia are secondary cavity nesters that do not hoard food, while the Black-capped and Carolina chickadees of North America are cavity excavators that cache food in the winter. These characteristics have driven a predominance of studies on optimal clutch size in Europe--where tits take to nest boxes--and of spatial memory in North America--where chickadees cache food. The final chapter also makes note of some of the larger questions left unanswered in parid studies, although preceding chapters also denote a fair number of explicitly-stated questions ready for further exploration. The only minor limitation to the book is a lack of a comprehensive phylogenetic analysis of the parids. The second chapter of the book does include a reprint of the Gill et al. (2005) phylogeny, but since many of the chapters are heavily comparative in nature (e.g., Black-capped vs. Carolina vs. Boreal chickadees), readers may regularly find themselves desiring a more comprehensive review of Paridae systematics for reference when interpreting these comparative analyses. Gill et al. (2005) provides the most recent and comprehensive assessment of parid evolutionary history. Without a phylogeny chapter in the book, readers may want to keep a copy of that reference nearby (Gill, F. B., B. Slikas, and F. H. Sheldon. 2005. Phylogeny of Titmice [Paridae]. Auk 122: 121-143).

I used this book as the backbone for a semester long discussion by a group comprising advanced undergraduate students, graduate students, faculty colleagues, and research associates. Thus, I was able to dedicate considerable effort to critically reviewing not only what was written by the authors, but also the background literature upon which the chapters were based. The book has a limited amount of repetition and an appreciable amount of agreement and synthesis between chapters. Despite over 30 contributors, all chapters were a pleasure to read and for anyone remotely interested in ornithological research, it will be inspiring--on several occasions participants in our parid study group referred to chapters as "real page-turners." The book is current, comprehensive, well written, well edited, and insightful.--ALEC R. LINDSAY, Associate Professor, Northern Michigan University, 1401 Presque Isle Avenue, Marquette, MI 49855, USA; e-mail:
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