Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 36, Issue 3, pp 201–206

Does the great spotted cuckoo choose magpie hosts according to their parenting ability?

Authors

  • Juan José Soler
    • Department of Population Biology, Zoological InstituteUniversity of Copenhagen
  • Manuel Soler
    • Departamento de Biología Animal y Ecología, Facultad de CienciasUniversidad de Granada
  • Anders Pape Møller
    • Department of Population Biology, Zoological InstituteUniversity of Copenhagen
  • Juan Gabriel Martínez
    • Departamento de Biología Animal y Ecología, Facultad de CienciasUniversidad de Granada
Article

DOI: 10.1007/BF00177797

Cite this article as:
Soler, J.J., Soler, M., Møller, A.P. et al. Behav Ecol Sociobiol (1995) 36: 201. doi:10.1007/BF00177797

Abstract

When brood parasites are about to lay an egg, they have to decide which nest to parasitize. The best nest in which to lay will depend on the parenting ability of the host. We have studied selection of magpie (Pica pica) hosts by great spotted cuckoos (Clamator glandarius). Great spotted cuckoos preferentially parasitize large host nests. Nest volume in magpies is a good indicator of territory quality, since there is a negative relationship between magpie nest size and breeding date, and timing of breeding in magpies is known to be positively related to territory quality. Moreover, magpies occupying high-quality territories have high breeding success. Therefore, nest size is positively related to the quality of magpies. Parasitized magpie nests were of greater volume than the nearest neighbouring nest not parasitized by the great spotted cuckoo. In order to test whether the great spotted cuckoos might select high-quality magpie hosts, we manipulated pairs of parasitized and non-parasitized nests with identical laying dates and habitats, introducing into each of the nests the same number of parasitic and non-parasitic eggs. The number of fledglings reared (magpie plus great spotted cuckoo chicks) in naturally parasitized nests was higher than in experimentally parasitized nests. Thus, the probability of survival of the parasite chicks increased if cuckoo eggs were laid in the nests of high-quality hosts originally chosen by the parasite.

Key words

Brood parasitismHost selectionParenting abilityNest building

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1995