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Peer Review


Reviewed By:  Philip Earhart


Wildlife and Fisheries Science, Department of Biology,

Tennessee Technological University, Cookeville, Tennessee, 38505


Foraging-Patch Use and Within-Patch Diet Selectivity In Mourning Doves, Zenaida Macroura


Steven E. Hayslette and Ralph E. Mirarchi


Ecology, 83(9), 2002, pp. 2637-2641



            The purpose of this study was an attempt to clarify Mourning Doves (Zenaida macroura) feeding behaviors.  The researchers hypothesized that Mourning Doves used a fixed-time patch departure strategy and an expanding specialist within-patch diet-selection strategy.  The researchers were hypothesizing that when there were ample food supplies available to the doves that they were selective in what they consumed, but in times of food scarcity that the doves foraged in more of a generalist nature.  The experiment involved supplying trapped doves, contained in an aviary facility, with variable rates and types of food and the analysis of the amounts of the different types of food consumed.  The work of these two researchers concluded that the doves feed with a fixed-time patch-departure strategy which indicated that the birds were unable to assess the patch’s resource density. 


(a)        The article flowed relatively well and the authors managed to maintain the focus of their writings on the objectives of their study.  They spent ample time introducing the article and gave good background information.  They transitioned the flow of the article from the methods to the analysis quickly and followed up with a good discussion.


(b)        The title of the paper is an excellent description of the content of the paper.  However, the title is somewhat difficult to comprehend without the explanations which followed later in the paper.  It would be difficult to amend the title any other way however without making the title too long.


(c)        The literature cited within the introduction does lead the reader directly to the objective statement.  The introduction is very thorough and the reader must filter through to find the objective clearly stated. 


(d)        There are seventy-six citations in the introduction and most of which support the objective.  Many aspects of the birds as well as descriptions of the individual feeding behaviors are backed up with citations.


(e)        The objective statement is not as thorough and specific as I would have like it to be.  There was a lot of material that the reader had to sort through before reaching the objective.  However, all of the material made the objective statement more thorough due to the intense understanding of the processes upon reaching the objective.


(f)         The materials and methods section is logically arranged and is complete.  It has enough literature citations to support the methods that the authors used.  One of the authors is an authority on the procedures used to contain the birds and experimentation setup as listed in the literature cited.


(g)        I do not think that I could go out and complete these studies exactly as they were performed by just reading this paper.  The descriptions were not detailed enough for another researcher to replicate this study.


(h)        The results are arranged in the same manner and order as they were in the materials and methods section of the paper.


(i)         The results were extremely thorough, but they were listed in a manner that was hard for me to understand.  They were dominated by statistical figures with very little explanation of the actual results of the study.  The reader would need to be familiar with statistics and take their time sorting through the results.


(j)         There was only one table/graph in this study and it was prepared well and was necessary to explain the results.  It showed the breakdowns between the two aims of the study.  I do however think that the use of more graphs/charts would have been appropriate for a more thorough explanation of the results to supplement the statistical figures.


(k)        The discussion section of the paper does an excellent job actually discussing the results of the paper as well as comparing them to the results of previous literature citations and studies.  The discussion is complete and easy to follow and is filled with useful information.  I actually think that some of the information contained in the discussion portion would have useful in previous sections.  I was able to get more out of this section than any of the previous sections.


(l)         The literature cited in the discussion portion of the paper builds on the information and citations contained in the introduction.  The introduction does as it is intended and leads the reader in the direction that the discussion will ultimately take them.


(m)       The citations that the authors used build on and supplement their argument and the findings of their experiment.  The authors also use citations to disagree with the results they concluded.  For this I applaud the researchers for using citations to both support and disagree with their findings.


(n)        I feel that the objectives of the study were met.  The researchers were able to use the evidence of their findings, supported by previous citations, to conclusively support their ideas.  They did however note that further studies would be needed to discuss discrepancies in the behavior of the birds.


The paper was complete, well written, and relatively easy to follow.  The wording of the introduction described and explained the processes and ideology of the experiment and was supported from previous studies.  The results section of the study could have been broken down so that individuals less familiar with statistical information would more easily comprehend the results.  I also believe that the results would have benefited from additional charts or graphs.  The objectives of the study were met, but the researchers stated that additional research would be required.


The problems that I have identified with the paper are small problems that focus mainly on comprehending the results.  I would have like the writers to assert the objective of the study early in the introduction and elaborate instead of describing the basis of the study and then stating the objective.  The results section of the paper is one of the most important sections and I do not feel that I got as much out of the results as I should have.  The results would benefit from some clarification of the statistical information contained and could also benefit from additional visual aids. 


The benefits of this study are very important to dove feeding research.  It identifies the way that doves seek out their food sources and the way the go about exploiting them.  I would be handy when preparing food plot areas for doves so that you could maximize the benefits they received.


The study identified that more research is necessary to explain the lack of changes in selectivity with patch exploitation and to explain the other possible mechanisms of the partially selective diet that was observed.