Predicting the responses of native birds to transoceanic invasions by avian brood parasites

Vladimir Dinets, Peter Samaš, Rebecca Croston, Tomáš Grim, Mark E. Hauber

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Three species of brood parasites are increasingly being recorded as transoceanic vagrants in the Northern Hemisphere, including two Cuculus cuckoos from Asia to North America and a Molothrus cowbird from North America to Eurasia. Vagrancy patterns suggest that their establishment on new continents is feasible, possibly as a consequence of recent range increases in response to a warming climate. The impacts of invasive brood parasites are predicted to differ between continents because many host species of cowbirds in North America lack egg rejection defenses against native and presumably also against invasive parasites, whereas many hosts of Eurasian cuckoos frequently reject non-mimetic, and even some mimetic, parasitic eggs from their nests. During the 2014 breeding season, we tested the responses of native egg-rejecter songbirds to model eggs matching in size and color the eggs of two potentially invasive brood parasites. American Robins (Turdus migratorius) are among the few rejecters of the eggs of Brown-headed Cowbirds (M. ater), sympatric brood parasites. In our experiments, robins rejected one type of model eggs of a Common Cuckoo (C. canorus) host-race, but accepted model eggs of a second cuckoo host-race as well as robin-mimetic control eggs. Common Redstarts (Phoenicurus phoenicurus), frequent hosts of Common Cuckoos in Eurasia, rejected ~50% of model Brown-headed Cowbird eggs and accepted most redstart-mimetic control eggs. Our results suggest that even though some hosts have evolved egg-rejection defenses against native brood parasites, the invasion of brood parasites into new continents may negatively impact both naïve accepter and coevolved rejecter songbirds in the Northern Hemisphere.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)244-251
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Field Ornithology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • American Robin
  • Climate change
  • Common Redstart
  • Cowbird
  • Cuckoo
  • Egg rejection
  • Invasive species

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


Dive into the research topics of 'Predicting the responses of native birds to transoceanic invasions by avian brood parasites'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this