The development and ecological significance of feeding techniques in the Reed Warbler (Acrocephalus scirpaceus).
Wild reed warblers use several techniques to capture their insect prey (mainly Diptera). Different techniques are used for different prey and so vary with prey activity. Independent young birds pick stationary prey from foliage more frequently than adults, which often catch prey in mid-air. This is not because the young need time to develop feeding skills. Captive birds which did not have experience of flies until fully grown were no worse at capturing them than birds which had had continuous experience from an early age. Adults probably use more energy-demanding techniques in order to collect enough food for their young as well as themselves. However, rapid learning of prey handling ability is restricted to a sensitive period early in development, before structural maturation of the bill is completed.