Laterality Data for Mountain Chickadees at Sagehen Experimental Forest Winter

Published: 12 May 2022| Version 1 | DOI: 10.17632/jsgv8jp8cp.1
Lauren Benedict,
Virginia Heinen,


Data analyzed in 2022. All data were collected as part of a long-term study (2014 - ongoing in 2022) of mountain chickadees at Sagehen Experimental Forest in the Sierra Nevada (Sagehen Creek Field Station, University of California Berkeley), located 10 km north of Truckee, CA, USA. To band birds, birds were trapped annually at nestboxes during summer or at established bird feeders using mistnets in the fall and winter. Trapped birds were banded with color bands including a colored passive integrated transponder (PIT) tag with a unique alphanumeric ID (IB Technology, Leicestershire, U.K.). Sex (male or female) was determined from previous summer breeding survey records using physiological evidence (e.g., brood patch or cloacal protuberance), if possible. See published works for better characterization of banding efforts and cognition experiments: Branch et al. 2016, 2017; Kozlovsky et al. 2018, Tello-Ramos et al. 2018, Sonnenberg et al. 2019, Sonnenberg et al. 2020, Benedict et al. 2021. To estimate laterality in the direction chickadees moved around an experimental apparatus during foraging-based search, we used data collected from three types of spatial cognitive tasks: spatial learning and memory (winter 2019-2020, winter 2020-2021), single spatial reversal learning (winter 2019-2020, winter 2020-2021), and serial spatial reversal learning (winter 2020-2021). Data were collected automatically from 'smart' feeders equipped with a radio frequency identification (RFID) data logger connected to a perch-mounted antenna that detected and logged the PIT tags of birds that landed at the feeders. Each feeder had a mechanized door to control access to a supply of black oil sunflower seeds. Feeders arranged in 8-feeder arrays on a square frame, 2 per elevation, ca. 1.2 km apart. Laterality was calculated from the relative direction that birds moved around the feeder array while searching for a food reward during the spatial cognitive tasks, all conducted under natural conditions with wild birds. Data were only used from trials in which birds visited two nonrewarding feeder locations at the array before receiving a food reward from the correct feeder location and flying away to consume or cache the food elsewhere. Trials were scored left or right and were summed per bird per year. Calculated metrics: the proportion of left trials out of the total number of scored trials (leftTrials/totalTrials), the laterality index (leftTrials-rightTrials/totalTrials), and standard z-scores. Dataset also includes demographic data (elevation, sex) and cognition data from a spatial learning and memory task (winter 2020-2021, "Memory_MeanLOCerr") and a single spatial reversal task (winter 2020-2021, "Reversal_MeanLOCerr"). Cognition was estimated by the mean number of location errors (i.e. nonrewarding feeder locations) in the first 20 trials of each task (See Croston et al. 2016, 2017 for details).


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Calculated metrics: the proportion of left trials out of the total number of scored trials (leftProportion = leftTrials/totalTrials), the laterality index (LatInd = leftTrials-rightTrials/totalTrials), and z-scores [zScore = (leftTrials - (totalTrials/2)) / (sqrt(totalTrials/4) ].


University of Nevada Reno


Behavioral Ecology, Foraging Behavior, Laterality