Chick loss from mixed broods reflects severe nestmate competition between an evictor brood parasite and its hosts

Csaba Moskát, Márk E. Hauber

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Hatchlings of the obligate brood parasite common cuckoo Cuculus canorus typically evict eggs and nestmates but, rarely, host and parasite nestlings may grow up together. As part of previous experiments, we manipulated host clutches by inducing two great reed warbler Acrocephalus arundinaceus and one parasite young to share a nest from 4 days posthatch, when the cuckoo's eviction behaviour is thought to cease. We documented that in mixed broods typically at least one nestling eventually fell out of nest during the period of 5-10 days posthatch. In 83% of nests one or two host chicks disappeared, and in 17% of nests parasite chicks were lost. All nestlings remained in control broods of three hosts or one parasite. These results imply strong physical competition for space in mixed broods. We suggest that continued foster care for parasitized broods may occasionally be beneficial because host nestlings have some chance to escape the costs of parasitism, even when their parents fail to reject the parasite's egg and the parasite hatchling fails to evict nestmates. Conversely, evictor parasite chicks benefit not only through improved growth, as reported before, but also through the elimination of nestmate competition for space and the risk of displacement from mixed broods.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)311-314
Number of pages4
JournalBehavioural Processes
Volume83
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 2010
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Evictor
  • Obligate brood parasite
  • Tolerant
  • Virulence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience

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