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High begging intensity of great spotted cuckoo nestlings favours larger-size crow nest mates

Abstract

In nests of birds parasitized by a larger non-evicting brood parasite, host chicks typically are at disadvantage in competing for food and often starve. However, when host chicks are larger, they may benefit from the presence of the parasite, which contributes to the net brood begging signal but cannot monopolize the food brought to the nest. Here, we show that, despite a higher begging intensity, great spotted cuckoos (Clamator glandarius) did not outcompete larger size carrion crow (Corvus corone corone) nestlings. Furthermore, cuckoos’ exaggerated begging allowed crow nest mates to decrease their begging intensity without negative consequences on food intake. Assuming an energetic cost to chicks of begging intensely, our results suggest that crow chicks sharing the nest with a cuckoo may obtain an advantage that should be weighed against the loss of indirect fitness due to parasitism.

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Acknowledgments

We are grateful to three anonymous referees for improving the manuscript. The research was supported by The Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competiveness (grants CGL2008-01829BOS and CGL2011-27260, to VB) and the Junta of Andalucía (RNM 610, to MS).

Ethical standards

We used camouflaged micro-cameras (size 4 × 2 × 2 cm) commonly used for security systems and video-recorders placed at the bottom of the nest tree. Video-camaras, recorders and cables were carefully camouflaged using branches and natural vegetation. The birds never showed any visible reaction to the video cameras, and video-recorded nests did not show a higher rate of brood failure compared to control non-video sampled nests (see Canestrari et al. 2005 for details). Chicks were marked with non-toxic white markers, which lasted about 5 days, and provoked no visible reactions from brood mates or adults (such as aggression, pecking, or nest desertion). All marked chicks were regularly fed after the treatment. All bird manipulations raised no ethical or conservation concerns, comply with the laws of the country where they were performed and were authorized by Junta de Castilla y León.

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Correspondence to Daniela Canestrari.

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Communicated by M. Leonard

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Bolopo, D., Canestrari, D., Roldán, M. et al. High begging intensity of great spotted cuckoo nestlings favours larger-size crow nest mates. Behav Ecol Sociobiol 69, 873–882 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00265-015-1895-z

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Keywords

  • Brood parasitism
  • Corvus corone
  • Clamator glandarius
  • Cuckoo
  • Begging
  • Nestling provisioning