Perch height predicts dominance rank in birds

Steven J. Portugal, Laura Sivess, Graham R. Martin, Patrick J. Butler, Craig White

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Dominant individuals within animal groups will frequently place themselves in the most beneficial position for maximal protection against predation. Higher perches are generally associated with reduced predation risk in birds, so we predicted that dominant birds will preferentially place themselves on higher perches. We tested this by determining the dominance hierarchy in two populations of captive birds (Homing Pigeons Columba livia and Great Cormorants Phalacrocorax carbo), and relating rank within the dominance hierarchy to observed perch height preferences. We found that perch choice was significantly repeatable in pigeons, and that more dominant individuals of both species selected higher perches. As well as facilitating early detection of and escape from potential predators, higher perches are also likely to facilitate the display of aggression to other group members.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)456-462
Number of pages7
JournalIbis: The International Journal of Avian Science
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2017


  • aggression
  • Columba livia
  • Cormorants
  • Phalacrocorax carbo sinesis
  • Pigeons
  • social structure

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