Skip to main content

Spatial and temporal multi-species nesting aggregations in birds as anti-parasite and anti-predator defenses

Summary

  1. 1.

    The purpose of this study was to determine whether the yellow warbler (Dendroica petechia) derives any benefits from nesting in close proximity to its own and other species in reducing predator pressure or the incidence of brood parasitism by the brown-headed cowbird (Molothrus ater).

  2. 2.

    Yellow warblers nesting synchronously with their own and with neighbouring species resulted in a proportionate reduction in the number of nests preyed upon, suggesting a ‘swamping effect’ of the local predators. A significantly lower incidence of predation occurred at yellow warbler nests which were inside a gray catbird (Dumetella carolinensis) response range. This was thought to be the result of yellow warblers taking advantage of the catbird's nest-guarding behaviour and aggressive responses to predators.

  3. 3.

    Yellow warblers nesting synchronously with other yellow warblers were subject to a proportionately lower incidence of brood parasitism than asynchronous nests, suggesting a ‘swamping effect’ on the cowbird. A significantly lower incidence of brood parasitism occurred at yellow warbler nests which were in a red-winged blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus) response range. The yellow warbler was thought to be taking advantage of the aggressive response of red-winged blackbirds to cowbirds.

  4. 4.

    Overall, yellow warblers which nested within the response range of red-winged blackbirds or gray catbirds had significantly higher nest success than other yellow warblers. This suggests that selection for defence against predators and cowbirds may lead to multi-species aggregations.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

References

  • Alexander, R.D.: The evolution of social behaviour. Ann. Rev. Ecol. Syst. 5, 325–384 (1974)

    Google Scholar 

  • Berger, A.J.: The cowbird and certain host species in Michigan. Wilson Bull. 63, 26–34 (1951)

    Google Scholar 

  • Caccamise, D.F.: Nesting mortality in the red-winged blackbird. Auk 93, 517–534 (1976)

    Google Scholar 

  • Crook, J.H.: The adaptive significance of avian social organizations. Symp. Zool. Soc. Lond. 14, 181–218 (1965)

    Google Scholar 

  • Evans, R.M.: Oldsquaws nesting in association with Arctic terns at Churchill, Manitoba. Wilson Bull. 82, 383–390 (1970)

    Google Scholar 

  • Friedmann H.: Host relations of the parasitic cowbirds. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Inst. 1963

    Google Scholar 

  • Hamilton, W.D.: Geometry for the selfish herd. J. Theor. Biol. 31, 295–311 (1971)

    Google Scholar 

  • Holling, C.S.: The components of predation as revealed by a study of small mammal predation of the European pine sawfly. Can. Entomol. 91, 293–320 (1959)

    Google Scholar 

  • Hoogland, J.L., Sherman, P.W.: Advantages and disadvantages of bank swallow (Riparia riparia) coloniality. Ecol. Monogr. 46, 33–58 (1976)

    Google Scholar 

  • Horn, H.S.: The adaptive significance of colonial nesting in the Brewer's blackbird (Euphagus cyanocephalus). Ecology 49, 682–694 (1968)

    Google Scholar 

  • Krebs, J.R.: Colonial nesting and social feeding as strategies for exploiting food resources in the great blue heron (Ardea herodias). Behaviour 51, 99–131 (1974)

    Google Scholar 

  • Kruuk, H.: Predators and anti-predator behaviour of the black-headed gull (Larus ridibundus). Behaviour [Suppl.] 11, 129p (1964)

  • Kvaerne, J.: Kan vipa vaere vaktful for andre fuglearter? Is the Lapwing a ‘watchdog’ for other wader species? Sterna 12, 85–90 (1973)

    Google Scholar 

  • Lack, O.: Ecological adaptations for breeding in birds. London: Methuen 1968

    Google Scholar 

  • Nice, M.: Studies in the life history of the song sparrow. Trans. Linn. Soc. NY (1937)

  • Patterson, I.: Timing and spacing of broods in the black-headed gull (Larus ridibundus). Ibis 107, 433–459 (1965)

    Google Scholar 

  • Payne, R.B. Clutch size and numbers of eggs laid by brown-headed cowbirds. Condor 67, 44–60 (1965)

    Google Scholar 

  • Robertson, R.J.: Optimal niche space of the red-winged blackbird: Spatial and temporal patterns of nesting activity and success. Ecology 54, 1085–1093 (1973)

    Google Scholar 

  • Robertson, R.J., Norman, R.F.: Behavioural defenses to brood parasitism by potential hosts of the brown-headed cowbird. Condor 78 166–173 (1976)

    Google Scholar 

  • Robertson, R.J., Norman, R.F.: The function and evolution of aggressive host behaviour towards the brown-headed cowbird (Molothrus ater). Can. J. Zool. 55, 508–518 (1977)

    Google Scholar 

  • Rothstein, S.I.: Evolutionary rates and host defenses against avian brood parasitism. Am. Nat. 109, 161–176 (1975)

    Google Scholar 

  • Schrantz, F.G.: Nest life of the eastern yellow warbler. Auk 60, 367–387 (1943)

    Google Scholar 

  • Scott, D.M.: Cowbird parasitism on the gray catbird at London, Ontario. Auk 94, 18–27 (1977)

    Google Scholar 

  • Selander, R.K., Larue, C.J.: Interspecific preening invitation display of parasitic cowbirds. Auk 78, 473–504 (1961)

    Google Scholar 

  • Slack, R.D.: Nest guarding behaviour by male catbirds. Auk 93, 292–300 (1976)

    Google Scholar 

  • Sutton, G.M.: The birds of Pymating Swamp and Commeaut Lake, Crawford County, Pennsylvania. Ann. Carnegie Mus. 18, 19–239 (1928)

    Google Scholar 

  • Ward, P., Zahavi, A.: The importance of certain assemblages of birds as information centres for food-finding. Ibis 115, 517–534 (1973)

    Google Scholar 

  • Weatherhead, P.J., Robertson, R.J.: Harem size, territory quality and reproductive success in the redwinged blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus). Can. J. Zool. 55, 1261–1267 (1977)

    Google Scholar 

  • Young, H.: Breeding success of the cowbird. Wilson Bull. 75, 115–122 (1963)

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Clark, K.L., Robertson, R.J. Spatial and temporal multi-species nesting aggregations in birds as anti-parasite and anti-predator defenses. Behav Ecol Sociobiol 5, 359–371 (1979). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00292524

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00292524

Keywords

  • Nest Success
  • Response Range
  • Aggressive Response
  • Brood Parasitism
  • Neighbouring Species