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Parental attendance of Chestnut Thrush reduces nest predation during the incubation period: compensation for low nest concealment?

Abstract

A well-concealed nest site is supposed to reduce nest predation risk; however, the expected positive relationship between nest concealment and nest survival does not exist in some passerine species, especially in thrushes. Previous studies have suggested thrushes might be capable of defending their nest against predators and do provide compensation for their low nest concealment, but this mechanism is controversial. We conducted a field experiment on the Chestnut Thrush (Turdus rubrocanus) to test whether parental attendance reduced nest predation risk, and to explore the possible mechanism behind this. In this study, we found that natural nests (with parental attendance) suffered lower nest predation rate than paired re-used nests (without parental attendance). With infrared-triggered cameras, we observed that Chestnut Thrush successfully defended their nests against mice. We identified mice as the main predator in re-used nests, while nest concealment had no significant impact on mice predation. Overall, parental attendance of the Chestnut Thrushes reduced the nest predation risk by deterring opportunistic predators, but not enough to offset the low nest concealment.

Zusammenfassung

Die Anwesenheit der Elternvögel am Nest (“Parental attendance”) verringert bei der Kastaniendrossel ( Turdus rubrocanus ) Nesträuberei während der Brutzeit: ein Ausgleich dafür, dass die Nester weniger versteckt sind?

Ein gut verborgenes Nest ist eine Maßnahme, Nesträuberei zu verringern. Aber es gibt Vogelarten, vor allem Drosseln, für die der zu erwartende Zusammenhang zwischen Verstecktheit des Nestes und Überleben der Brut nicht gegeben ist. Frühere Untersuchungen legten nahe, dass Drosseln möglicherweise in der Lage sind, ihre Nester gegen Räuber zu verteidigen und damit das Risiko der schlechter versteckten Nester zu kompensieren, wobei diese Art von Kompensation allerdings kontrovers diskutiert wird. Wir führten mit Kastaniendrosseln (Turdus rubrocanus) einen Feldversuch durch, um zu testen, ob die “parental attendance” tatsächlich das Risiko von Nesträuberei verringert und um die gegebenenfalls zugrunde liegenden Mechanismen zu untersuchen. In unserer Untersuchung fanden wir, dass neu angelegte Nester (mit “parental attendance”) weniger Nesträuberei erfuhren als wieder verwendete Nester (ohne “parental attendance”). Mithilfe von Infrarot-Kameras konnten wir in einem Fall beobachten, wie eine Kastaniendrossel ihr Nest erfolgreich gegen eine Maus verteidigte. Wir stellten Mäuse als die hauptsächlichen Räuber in wieder verwendeten Nestern fest, wobei es keinen großen Einfluss auf ihre Nesträuberei hatte, ob die Nester gut oder weniger gut versteckt waren. Generell verringerte bei Kastaniendrosseln die Anwesenheit der Eltern am Nest das Nesträuber-Risiko, weil sie opportunistische Räuber abschreckten; dies schien jedoch kein Kompensationsmechanismus dafür zu sein, dass die Nester wegen der Anwesenheit der Elterntiere weniger verborgen waren.

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Acknowledgements

We thank De-Jun Wang, Ya-Xi Chang and other workers of Lianhuashan Nature Reserve for their help in the field. We also thank local people for allowing us to access to their farmland. This work was funded by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (No. 31270468).

Author information

Correspondence to Yue-Hua Sun.

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We declare that all authors have no conflict of interest.

Ethical standards

The study comply with the current laws of China in which they were performed.

Additional information

Communicated by F. Lei.

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Hu, Y., Zhao, Q., Lou, Y. et al. Parental attendance of Chestnut Thrush reduces nest predation during the incubation period: compensation for low nest concealment?. J Ornithol 158, 1111–1117 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10336-017-1476-1

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Keywords

  • Chestnut Thrush
  • Nest predation
  • Parental attendance
  • Nest concealment
  • Incubation period
  • Turdus rubrocanus