Journal of Ornithology

, Volume 158, Issue 4, pp 925–933 | Cite as

Great Reed Warbler singing behavior and conspicuous song structures are not nest-location cues for the Common Cuckoo

  • Miroslav Capek
  • Tereza Petrusková
  • Zuzana Šebelíková
  • Jesús Campos Serrano
  • Petr Procházka
  • Marcel Honza
  • Milica Požgayová
Original Article

Abstract

In some systems, brood parasites may be attracted by vocal or visual signals connected with host breeding. We studied a Great Reed Warbler (Acrocephalus arundinaceus) population where annually 30–50% of nests are parasitized by the Common Cuckoo (Cuculus canorus). We observed host males and quantified their song-related behaviors, including time spent singing, distance of movements and time spent singing in particular positions on a reed stem. We predicted that nests of more exposed males (i.e., those spending more time singing, moving a larger total distance, and spending more time on the top of stems) would be more likely to be parasitized than the nests of less exposed males. Additionally, we measured male song characteristics that we assumed to be most audible, and thus potentially the most conspicuous to the Common Cuckoo. We counted the number of “kara” syllables per song and measured their peak frequencies. Since these song structures are of low frequency and thus might be audible at longer distances, we predicted that males producing more kara syllables or uttering kara syllables of lower peak frequencies would also be more parasitized. However, we found that neither male singing behavior nor conspicuous song characteristics were significant predictors of parasitism. Only the visibility of host nests to the parasite, which we treated as a covariate, proved to be significant. Visible nests were more often parasitized than hidden nests. Our findings indicate that the Cuckoo females use nest visibility, or host behavior other than male singing, as the cue to locate host nests.

Keywords

Acrocephalus arundinaceus Brood parasitism Cuculus canorus Eavesdropping Host activity hypothesis 

Zusammenfassung

Drosselrohrsänger (Acrocephalus arundinaceus): Weder ihr Singverhalten, noch auffallende Strukturelemente in den Gesängen dienen dem Kuckuck (Cuculus canorus) als Hinweise auf den Standort der Nester Es gibt Fälle, in denen Brutparasiten von akustischen oder visuellen Signalen, die mit der Brutaktivität des Wirts verbunden sind, angezogen werden. Wir untersuchten eine Population des Drosselrohrsängers (Acrocephalus arundinaceus), in der jedes Jahr 30–50% der Nester vom Kuckuck (Cuculus canorus) parasitiert werden. Hierfür beobachteten wir die Wirts-Männchen und quantifizierten ihre mit dem Singen verknüpften Verhaltenselemente, inklusive der mit Singen verbrachten Zeit, ihrer räumlichen Bewegungsmuster und der Zeit, die sie singend in ganz bestimmten Körperstellungen an einem Schilfhalm zubrachten. Wir sagten vorher, daß Nester von stärker exponierten Männchen (z. B. jenen, die mehr Zeit mit Singen verbrachten, beim Herumhüpfen größere Entfernungen zurücklegten und mehr Zeit auf ein und demselben Schilfrohr hockten) eher parasitiert würden als weniger exponierte Männchen. Zusätzlich maßen wir die Längen derjenigen charakteristischen Gesangselementen, die am klarsten herauszuhören und damit für die Kuckucke potentiell am auffälligsten waren. Wir zählten die Anzahl der Kara-Silben pro Gesang und bestimmten deren Frequenzspitzen. Da diese Gesangselemente eher niedrigere Frequenzen aufweisen und somit über längere Entfernungen zu hören sind, mutmaßten wir, dass Männchen, die mehr Kara-Silben produzierten, oder mehr solche mit niedrigeren Frequenzen, häufiger parasitiert würden. Wir fanden jedoch heraus, dass weder das Sing-Verhalten der Männchen, noch auffällige Gesangsmuster signifikante Prädiktoren für Parasitismus waren. Einzig die Sichtbarkeit der Wirts-Nester für die Parasiten, von uns als Kovariante behandelt, stellte sich als signifikant heraus. Leicht sichtbare Nester wurden häufiger als versteckte Nester parasitiert. Unsere Ergebnisse legen nahe, dass Kuckucks-Weibchen die Nest-Sichtbarkeit oder aber Verhaltensweisen der Wirte, die nichts mit dem Gesang der Männchen zu tun haben, als Mittel benutzen, Nester von Wirten zu finden.

Notes

Acknowledgements

We thank V. Jelínek, M. Šulc, K. Morongová and T. Bolcková for their invaluable help in the field. We are also grateful to the management of Fish Farm Hodonín for enabling us to work on its properties, and local conservation authorities for giving us permission and the licenses to conduct the research. This paper has greatly benefited from the suggestions of two anonymous referees.

Compliance with ethical standards

Funding

Financial support for this research was provided by the Czech Science Foundation (grant 17-12262S) and institutional support (RVO 68081766).

Ethics statement

All the work adhered to the Animal Care Protocol of the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic (license number 0008/98-M103) and complies with current Czech law on the protection of animals against mistreatment, as well as with instructions on the activity of collaborators of the Czech Bird Ringing Center.

Supplementary material

10336_2017_1466_MOESM1_ESM.xlsx (9 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (XLSX 9 kb)

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Copyright information

© Dt. Ornithologen-Gesellschaft e.V. 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Miroslav Capek
    • 1
  • Tereza Petrusková
    • 2
  • Zuzana Šebelíková
    • 2
  • Jesús Campos Serrano
    • 2
  • Petr Procházka
    • 1
  • Marcel Honza
    • 1
  • Milica Požgayová
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute of Vertebrate BiologyAcademy of Sciences of the Czech RepublicBrnoCzech Republic
  2. 2.Department of Ecology, Faculty of ScienceCharles University in PraguePrague 2Czech Republic

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