Animal the theory of optimal foraging, when an organism

foraging is the act of searching for, acquiring and consuming resources, essential
for growth and reproduction. Survival and reproduction are reliant on the intake,
storage, and correct allocation of energy. Individuals that are unsuccessful in
obtaining and utilizing that energy will have higher mortality, or a shorter life-span
than those who can competently obtain that energy. Foraging success is the
manifestation of the fitness of an organism; animals that acquire enough
resources to survive to maturity, to reproduce, can advance these predominant genes
to the next generation. Optimal foraging theory explicates foraging behaviour in
terms of costs and benefits (Literature 1). The theory predicts that an
organism will make foraging decisions that maximize the energy gained per unit time,
to optimize the payoff from a foraging decision (Literature 2). Every probable food
item that an organism can consume has an intrinsic value (Literature 3). This
value is dependent on the costs; the time required to locate (search time) and
handle (handling time) the food, and the benefits; the overall nutrient and energy
content of that potential food source (Literature 1). The purpose of this study
is to determine, to what extent organisms, specifically birds in the case of this
study, are willing to expend their energy on foraging for a more profitable
food resource.

to the theory of optimal foraging, when an organism encounters a food source
with low profitability, in the presence of a more lucrative food resource, it
should consume the more profitable food item, to maximize the net energy
consumption (Literature 3). In the case, that the handling time and search time
of a food item is the same for a low energy and high energy food source, the
organism should be partial towards the higher quality food resource (Literature
1). However, when handling time for the more profitable food item is increased,
organisms should be less selective, and consume the more readily available food
resource and expend less energy (Literature 1). In a previous study conducted
on blue crabs, it was observed that the crabs preferred the smaller mussels (less
profitable and low energy) over the larger ones (more profitable and high
energy), due to a relatively shorter handling time and a lower expense of
energy (Literature 3).  In such a
scenario, if the animal does not consume the low-quality food and continues to expend
its energy handling a higher quality food item, it could potentially be more
expensive for the organism, than consuming the less profitable food item (Literature

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 As per the theory of optimal foraging, we
hypothesize that the birds in Calgary will trade off quality food for the
conservation of energy based on increased handling time. The birds will consume
the generic bird seed mix (less profitable food item) over the sunflower kernels
(more profitable food item), when the complexity of the birdfeeder is increased
for the more profitable food item. The difference between the consumption rate of
the sunflower kernels and the generic bird seed mix will be the greatest at low
complexity, and the lowest at high complexity. When there is no difference in
birdfeeder designs at the low complexity, the consumption rate of the sunflower
kernels, will be comparatively higher than the consumption rate of the generic
bird seed mix. Once the birdfeeder containing the sunflower kernels is replaced
with a more complex design, the birds will continue to forage for the profitable
food item, despite the increase in energy required to obtain the food. Initially
when the feeder is replaced, a decline in the intake rate of the sunflower kernels
is expected to be observed until the birds learn to forage from the new feeder.
When the birds are accustomed to the new feeder, a rise to a constant consumption
rate is anticipated. However, when the birdfeeder containing the sunflower
kernels is substituted with the most complex feeder design, the birds will
select for and consume the generic bird seed mix, located in the undeveloped
and accessible feeder. The birds are predicted to be partial towards the less profitable
food item, due to a lower handling time as a means to preserve their energy. 


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