Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 69, Issue 11, pp 1845–1853 | Cite as

Breeding success and brood parasitism affect return rate and dispersal distances in the great reed warbler

  • Jaroslav KolečekEmail author
  • Václav Jelínek
  • Milica Požgayová
  • Alfréd Trnka
  • Petra Baslerová
  • Marcel Honza
  • Petr Procházka
Original Article


Returning to a breeding site and decision where to breed belong to the key life-history traits, especially in migratory birds. Yet, we still lack knowledge about the drivers of adult return rates and breeding dispersal distances in populations under pressure of brood parasitism. We explored these issues in a trans-Saharan migratory passerine, the great reed warbler (Acrocephalus arundinaceus), in a population parasitized by the common cuckoo (Cuculus canorus)—an evicting brood parasite. In 2008–2012, a total of 563 great reed warblers were colour-marked and 185 of them were re-encountered 303 times in a year following their breeding at a fishpond area in the Czech Republic. We tested how brood parasitism and host breeding parameters in 1 year affect host return rate and dispersal distances in a following year. Return rate was lower in females fledging a cuckoo and in both sexes that failed to produce any offspring than in birds that fledged own chicks in the preceding year. Individual brood parasitism had a negative effect on the probability of female returning, but this relationship disappeared when excluding females fledging cuckoos. Although return rates did not differ between females that rejected and those that accepted cuckoo eggs, rejecter females dispersed less than acceptors. We conclude that brood parasitism and fostering the parasite might be negatively related to host female survival. The other breeding conditions might rather be related to the decision where to breed in the future. Establishing new long-term studies monitoring parasitized populations might open up avenues for future research.


Adult survival Breeding care Fidelity Host-parasite interaction Polygyny Social status 



We thank Miroslav Čapek, Michal Šulc, Marek M. Abraham, Radovan Beňo, Lucie Halová, Roman Hrdlička, Tereza Karasová, Anna Kousalová, Klára Morongová, Radka Piálková, Peter Samaš and Zuzana Šebelíková for their assistance during the fieldwork. We also thank two anonymous referees for their helpful comments. We are grateful to the management of the Hodonín Fish Farm for permission to conduct the fieldwork on their grounds. This study was supported by the Czech Science Foundation (13-06451S and P506/12/2404) and through the Institutional Research Plan (RVO: 68081766).

Compliance with ethical standards

The study was carried out with permissions of regional conservation authorities (permit numbers 00312/PA/2008/AOPK and JMK20189/2010). Bird catching and ringing was conducted under licence (numbers 906, 1023, 1050 and 1058) and followed rules issued by the Czech Bird Ringing Centre. The fieldwork adhered to the Animal Care Protocol of the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic (numbers 173/2008 and 128/2010) and was in compliance with current Czech Law on the Protection of Animals against Mistreatment (licence numbers V/1/2005/28 and 0008/98-M103).

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.

Supplementary material

265_2015_1997_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (476 kb)
Online Resource 1 (PDF 476 kb)
265_2015_1997_MOESM2_ESM.pdf (26 kb)
Online Resource 2 (PDF 26.1 kb)
265_2015_1997_MOESM3_ESM.pdf (27 kb)
Online Resource 3 (PDF 26.7 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Vertebrate Biology, Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic, v.v.i.BrnoCzech Republic
  2. 2.Department of Ecology, Faculty of ScienceCharles University in PraguePrague 2Czech Republic
  3. 3.Department of BiologyUniversity of TrnavaTrnavaSlovakia

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