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Nesting behavior and nest site selection in monk parakeets (Myiopsitta monachus) in the Pantanal of Brazil

Abstract

We examined nesting behavior in monk parakeets (Myiopsitta monachus) in their native habitat in the Brazilian Pantanal. Unique among parrots, monk parakeets build communal nest structures that contain many cavities, each belonging to an individual pair. We studied 41 parakeet colonies that had 104 nest structures. We hypothesized that nest structures would be located in trees providing the greatest support and protection from predators and inclement weather, and that nest sites and nest cavities would differ from random locations with respect to tree characteristics, location of houses, and presence of jabiru stork (Jabiru mycteria) nests, as suggested anecdotally by other authors. Fewer than half of the colonies were close (<350 m) to houses. There was a strong association with jabiru storks; 21 of 23 stork nests had monk parakeet nest cavities attached, accounting for 51% of parakeet colonies. Of the 21 jabiru-associated colonies, 6 had additional parakeet structures and 15 had only the jabiru-attached parakeet structure. Monk parakeet colonies associated with jabiru nests had significantly more nesting cavities than did monospecific monk parakeet colonies, due mainly to those attached directly to the jabiru nest. In jabiru-associated colonies, parakeet nest structures were located higher and in taller trees than in monospecific colonies. There was no difference in trunk diameters of parakeet nesting trees with or without jabirus. Although we tabulated 24 tree species as nest trees, nearest-neighbor trees, or matched-point trees, only 6 species were used for nesting. When compared to matched points, monk parakeet structures were preferentially located in piuva (Tabebuia spp.) and mandovi trees (Sterculia apetela). Parakeet structures were in taller trees with thicker trunk diameters than matched points. Most nest cavities (71%) faced in a northerly direction (northwest to northeast), away from cold southerly winds. Choice of a nest site and orientation appears to reflect structural, weather, and predator constraints. Thick, tall trees with stout branches provided stable sites for their large nest structures, which are known to collapse because of their own weight and strong winds. Nesting with jabirus confers structural advantages (they could attach many nests to the bottom of the jabiru nest, potentially gaining benefits from social facilitation), early warning, and predator defense.

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Acknowledgements

The authors wish to thank Juliano Penato de Arruda for his guiding services while we were at Caranda and for aiding in tree identification, and Luiz and Marina Vicente for logistical help, identification of tree species, and directions to parakeet colonies at Pouso Alegre. The staff of Fazenda Caranda, Pouso Alegre, and Pousada Piuval also helped locate monk nests and jabiru nests on the savannah. All these people helped make our work both pleasant and productive. Two anonymous referees provided valuable comments.

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Correspondence to J. Burger.

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Communicated by R. Oliveira

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Burger, J., Gochfeld, M. Nesting behavior and nest site selection in monk parakeets (Myiopsitta monachus) in the Pantanal of Brazil. acta ethol 8, 23–34 (2005). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10211-005-0106-8

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10211-005-0106-8

Keywords

  • Monk parakeet
  • Colony selection
  • Nest site selection
  • Jabiru mycteria
  • Anti-predator