Encyclopedia of Evolutionary Psychological Science

Living Edition
| Editors: Todd K. Shackelford, Viviana A. Weekes-Shackelford

Rejection Thresholds

  • William E. FeeneyEmail author
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-16999-6_2679-1



The threshold at which hosts of avian brood parasites reject a foreign egg, which can be adjusted according to their perceived risk of parasitism.


The interactions between avian brood parasites, such as cuckoos or cowbirds, and their hosts have emerged as model systems to study coevolutionary processes under natural conditions. Instead of building a nest and tending their offspring, brood parasites lay their eggs in the nests of other birds and abandon the care of their young to the host. Adult parasites tend to remove or damage host eggs when depositing their own and parasite chicks generally eliminate the rest of the host’s brood after hatching. Consequently, hosts evolve defenses against brood parasites, which select counteradaptations in parasites, further counteradaptations in hosts, and so on. While evidence of reciprocal adaptations and counteradaptations in hosts and brood parasites are evident at...

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.


  1. Feeney, W. E., Troscianko, J., Langmore, N. E., & Spottiswoode, C. N. (2015). Evidence for aggressive mimicry in an adult brood parasitic bird, and generalized defences in its host. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B: Biological Sciences, 282(1810), 20150795. https://doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2015.0795.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Feeney, W. E., Welbergen, J. A., & Langmore, N. E. (2014). Advances in the study of coevolution between avian brood parasites and their hosts. Annual Review of Ecology, Evolution, and Systematics, 45(1), 227–246. https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev-ecolsys-120213-091603.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Hanley, D., Grim, T., Igic, B., Samaš, P., López, A. V., Shawkey, M. D., & Hauber, M. E. (2017). Egg discrimination along a gradient of natural variation in eggshell coloration. Proceedings of the Royal Society B, 284(1848), 20162592. https://doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2016.2592.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  4. Lindholm, A. K., & Thomas, R. J. (2000). Differences between populations of reed warblers in defences against brood parasitism. Behaviour, 137, 25–42.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Spottiswoode, C. N., & Stevens, M. (2010). Visual modeling shows that avian host parents use multiple visual cues in rejecting parasitic eggs. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA, 107, 8672–8676. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.0910486107.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Stevens, M., Troscianko, J., & Spottiswoode, C. N. (2013). Repeated targeting of the same hosts by a brood parasite compromises host egg rejection. Nature Communications, 4, 2475. https://doi.org/10.1038/ncomms3475.PubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  7. Stoddard, M. C., & Stevens, M. (2010). Pattern mimicry of host eggs by the common cuckoo, as seen through a bird’s eye. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 277, 1387–1393. https://doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2009.2018.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  8. Stoddard, M. C., & Stevens, M. (2011). Avian vision and the evolution of egg color mimicry in the common cuckoo. Evolution, 65, 2004–2013. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1558-5646.2011.01262.x.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  9. Thorogood, R., & Davies, N. B. (2013). Reed warbler hosts fine-tune their defenses to track three decades of cuckoo decline. Evolution, 67, 3545–3555. https://doi.org/10.1111/evo.12213.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  10. Thorogood, R., & Davies, N. B. (2016). Combining personal with social information facilitates host defences and explains why cuckoos should be secretive. Scientific Reports, 6, 19872. https://doi.org/10.1038/srep19872.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Biological SciencesUniversity of QueenslandBrisbaneAustralia

Section editors and affiliations

  • Russell Jackson
    • 1
  1. 1.University of IdahoMoscowUSA