Avian brood parasitism often has multiple negative effects on the reproductive success of the host. Most studies have focused on one or two of these effects, but rarely have they all been studied simultaneously for one species. I studied prothonotary warblers to quantify the effects of different intensities of (i.e. multiple) brood parasitism by brown-headed cowbirds, Molothrus ater, on the production of host and cowbird young and on the between-year returns of adult warblers. Host clutch size decreased with an increase in the number of cowbird eggs laid in nests. The hatching success of warbler and cowbird eggs decreased with increased cowbird eggs in nests, but was always higher for cowbird eggs than warbler eggs. The survival of warbler nestlings, but not cowbird nestlings, decreased with increased cowbird nestlings in the brood. An increase in the number of cowbird nestlings in broods resulted in a reduction in the average mass of warbler nestlings but not cowbird nestlings. The number of cowbird eggs or nestlings present did not affect nest predation, and the fledging of cowbirds did not influence the renesting interval of female warblers. In addition, the between-year returns of adult warblers were not negatively affected by brood parasitism. Decreased hatching success and nestling survival reduced the reproductive output of the warblers the most. These effects were substantial and appear to favour the evolution of behavioural responses that reduce the effects of brood parasitism on prothonotary warblers.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Animal Science and Zoology