Journal of Ethology

, Volume 31, Issue 1, pp 1-7

First online:

Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.

Comparison of nest defence behaviour between two associate passerines

  • Marcin PolakAffiliated withDepartment of Nature Conservation, Institute of Biology and Biochemistry, Maria Curie-Skłodowska University Email author 


Nest predation is one of the most important factors limiting reproductive success, and antipredator behaviour can significantly reduce the loss of avian broods. I carried out field experiments on two sympatric passerines: the barred warbler and the red-backed shrike. Many authors have described the protective nature of nesting association between these species. However, we have little knowledge about the true nature of the relationships between associates. I examined (1) whether barred warblers and red-backed shrikes respond differently to an avian predator, and (2) whether males and females differ in the intensity of nest defence. Decoys of a known nest predator and a non-predatory control species were used to examine the types and relative intensity of parental response. I measured behavioural responsiveness by recording aggressive behaviour toward each model during the nestling period. Barred warblers and red-backed shrikes showed considerable variation in their response. Warblers more vigorously defended their own territories than shrikes. No differences between the sexes in antipredator behaviour in red-backed shrike were found. By contrast, in barred warbler, male was more involved in nest defence. The experimental tests provide evidence that these two species are able to differentiate between a predator and non-predator species.


Positive interactions Protective nesting association Nest defence Antipredatory response