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International Journal of Zoology
Volume 2011, Article ID 670548, 11 pages
Research Article

Leadership of Winter Mixed-Species Flocks by Tufted Titmice (Baeolophus bicolor): Are Titmice Passive Nuclear Species?

1Biology Department, Washington and Jefferson College, 60 S. Lincoln Street, Washington, PA 15301, USA
2Department of Wildlife Ecology and Conservation, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611-0430, USA

Received 30 December 2010; Revised 25 March 2011; Accepted 31 May 2011

Academic Editor: Alan Afton

Copyright © 2011 Thomas A. Contreras and Kathryn E. Sieving. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


The tufted titmouse (Baeolophus bicolor, TUTI) is a nuclear species in winter foraging flocks whose antipredator calls are used to manage predation risk by diverse heterospecifics. We hypothesized that satellite species in mixed flocks follow TUTI (not vice versa), thereby defining the role of TUTI as a “passive” nuclear species. We followed 20 winter mixed-species flocks in North-Central Florida and assessed angular-angular correlations between overall flock, TUTI, and satellite species movement directions. We observed significant correlations between overall flock movement directions and those of TUTI, confirming our central prediction. Within flocks, however, fine-scale movement directions of satellite species were often more highly correlated with those of other satellites than with TUTI movements. We conclude that TUTI are passive nuclear species whose movements define flock paths, but within flocks, TUTI movements may have less influence on satellite movements than do other factors.