Host species affects the growth rate of cuckoo (Cuculus canorus) chicks
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The cuckoo (Cuculus canorus) is an obligate interspecific brood parasite. When about to lay an egg, the female must decide which nest to parasitise. A high-quality host species should be preferred, to enhance the possibility of producing a viable offspring. In this study, we investigated the effects of two closely related host species, the great reed warbler (Acrocephalus arundinaceus) and the reed warbler (A. scirpaceus) on the growth rate of cuckoo nestlings. We found that cuckoo nestlings raised by the larger host species, the great reed warbler, grew significantly faster and became statistically significantly larger at fledging than nestlings raised by the smaller host, the reed warbler. Our results indicate a qualitative difference between the two host species. The great reed warbler, considered to be the best host, was parasitised at a higher rate than the reed warbler.
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