Obligate avian brood parasites lay their eggs in nests of other species (hosts), which raise parasitic young. Parasitic nestlings are likely to influence host’s parental behaviours as they typically beg for food more vigorously than young host for a given hunger level. However, few studies have tested this idea, with conflicting results. These prior studies were largely limited to biparental hosts, but little is known about the effect of brood parasitism on parental behaviours in hosts that breed cooperatively. We followed a multimodel approach to examine the effect of brood parasitism on nest provisioning and helper recruitment in the baywing (Agelaioides badius), a cooperative breeder parasitised by screaming (Molothrus rufoaxillaris) and shiny (Molothrus bonariensis) cowbirds. Multimodel inference results indicated that feeding visits increased with nestling age, cooperative group size and number of cowbird nestlings in the brood. Brood size had little influence on feeding visits, which further suggests that baywings adjusted their provisioning effort in response to cowbird parasitism. In addition, nests parasitised artificially with shiny cowbird eggs or hatchlings recruited more helpers than unmanipulated nests having only host or screaming cowbird young. Our results provide novel evidence that brood parasitism and cooperative breeding interact in determining the levels of nest provisioning.
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We thank Fundación Elsa Shaw de Pearson for allowing us to conduct this study at “Reserva El Destino”. We also thank Mark Hauber and Myriam Mermoz for helpful comments on previous draft. We are grateful to Scott Forbes and an anonymous reviewer, whose comments and suggestions allowed us to greatly improve the manuscript. CAU was supported by a scholarship of the University of Buenos Aires, MCDM was supported by a fellowship from Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas (CONICET) and MS and JCR are research fellows of CONICET. This work was supported by research grants of Agencia Nacional de Promoción Científica y Tecnológica and University of Buenos Aires.
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