A field study of spatial memory in green-backed firecrown hummingbirds (Sephanoides sephaniodes)
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The foraging ecology of hummingbirds involves the exploitation of a high number of patchily distributed flowers. This scenario seems to have influenced capabilities related to learning and memory, which help to avoid recently visited flowers and to allocate exploitation to the most rewarding flowers, once learning has occurred. We carried out two field experiments with the green-backed firecrown hummingbird (Sephanoides sephaniodes, Trochilidae) in order to examine the ability of birds, first, to recall a nectar location, and secondly, to remember the location of the most rewarding flower among lower quality flowers. The first experiment showed that subjects were able to recall the location of nectar among flowers of identical appearance. In the second experiment, hummingbirds were also able to recall the location of the most rewarding nectar among less rewarding flowers with the same appearance. The results of this study suggest that S. sephaniodes can remember the location of the most rewarding patch, facilitating efficient exploitation of flowers in the absence of visual cues related to nectar quality.